Killings of drug deal­ers ‘could hurt’ aid to Philip­pines

7 Days in Dubai - - GLOBAL NEWS -

As the body count mounts in the Philip­pines’ deadly war on drugs, and its com­bat­ive pres­i­dent’s rhetoric plumbs new depths, the mood in the US to­wards a key Asian ally is hard­en­ing.

In­flu­en­tial US law­mak­ers are warn­ing that the ex­tra­ju­di­cial killings in the drug war – Pres­i­dent Ro­drigo Duterte on Fri­day com­pared it to the Holo­caust – could af­fect Amer­i­can aid.

And while the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion main­tains that its 65-year-old al­liance with the Philip­pines re­mains “iron­clad”, a se­nior US diplo­mat is cau­tion­ing Duterte against more anti-US pos­tur­ing.

“I think it would be a se­ri­ous mis­take in a demo­cratic coun­try like the Philip­pines to un­der­es­ti­mate the power of the pub­lic’s affin­ity for the US. That’s peo­ple power,” said As­sis­tant Sec­re­tary of State Daniel Rus­sel.

Past Philip­pine pres­i­dents have been top­pled by pop­u­lar protests dubbed “peo­ple power”, in­clud­ing former dic­ta­tor Fer­di­nand Mar­cos, who was ousted in 1986.

Duterte has bris­tled at US crit­i­cism of the drug war and re­peat­edly spo­ken about di­alling back se­cu­rity co­op­er­a­tion – although he says he will main­tain the al­liance. This week he said that joint mil­i­tary ex­er­cises of Filipino and Amer­i­can troops sched­uled for next week in the Philip­pines will be the last. His for­eign sec­re­tary quickly said the de­ci­sion was not fi­nal. The pre­vi­ous Philip­pine gov­ern­ment signed an agree­ment to give US forces ac­cess to five Philip­pine mil­i­tary bases. That re­flected Manila’s anx­i­ety over the ter­ri­to­rial am­bi­tions of China and the com­pet­ing claims in the dis­puted South China Sea. “If he fol­lowed through on this pledge it would be dev­as­tat­ing to al­liance man­age­ment,” said Gre­gory Pol­ing, a fel­low with the South­east Asia pro­gramme at the Cen­tre for Strate­gic Stud­ies. “How does one sus­tain a mil­i­tary al­liance if your mil­i­taries don’t ex­er­cise to­gether?” On Fri­day, the Philip­pine leader said that Adolf Hitler had killed three mil­lion Jews and that he him­self would be “happy to slaugh­ter” three mil­lion ad­dicts. More than 3,000 peo­ple have died in the crack­down on drug push­ers and users since Duterte took of­fice three months ago. The Philip­pines re­ceived about $175 mil­lion in US de­vel­op­ment as­sis­tance in fis­cal 2015 and $50 mil­lion in for­eign mil­i­tary fi­nanc­ing. In 2016, it has got $75 mil­lion for coun­tert­er­ror­ism and mar­itime se­cu­rity. Since 2011, it has re­ceived three de­com­mis­sioned US Coast Guard cut­ters to bol­ster its navy.

TOUGH STANCE: Sa­chets of the il­le­gal drug Metham­phi­ta­mine Hy­droChlo­ride or ‘Ice’ are pa­raded in front of ar­rested drug sus­pects in the Philip­pines

ZERO TOL­ER­ANCE: Philip­pines Pres­i­dent Ro­drigo Duterte

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