U.S., Philip­pines plan talks on hu­man rights is­sues

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - NATIONAL - TERESA CERO­JANO

MANILA, Philip­pines — The Philip­pines said Fri­day that it re­spects hu­man rights and wel­comes the op­por­tu­nity to ad­dress the United States’ con­cerns about its hu­man-rights record — a topic ex­pected to be raised by U.S. Sec­re­tary of State Rex Tiller­son at Asia’s big­gest se­cu­rity fo­rum.

Tiller­son will raise all rel­e­vant is­sues in the U.S. al­liance with the Philip­pines, in­clud­ing con­cerns about hu­man rights, Act­ing U.S. As­sis­tant Sec­re­tary for East Asian and Pa­cific Af­fairs Su­san Thorn­ton said in Wash­ing­ton on Wed­nes­day. She said a meet­ing with Pres­i­dent Ro­drigo Duterte was be­ing ar­ranged.

A Depart­ment of For­eign Af­fairs state­ment said the Philip­pines un­der­stands it is part of U.S. of­fi­cials’ duty to talk about hu­man rights with the Philip­pines and the rest of the world be­cause they are ac­count­able to their Congress and their press.

“We share the be­lief that no coun­try has a per­fect hu­man rights sit­u­a­tion,” it added. “We wel­come the op­por­tu­nity to ad­dress their con­cerns and cor­rect the per­cep­tions they may have gleaned from ex­ag­ger­ated me­dia re­ports.”

The state­ment said the Philip­pines “is the old­est democ­racy in Asia and re­spect for hu­man rights is a shared value es­pe­cially with its treaty ally, the United States.”

Dis­cus­sions on hu­man rights are al­ways in­cluded in Philip­pine en­gage­ments with for­eign gov­ern­ments, par­tic­u­larly with West­ern democ­ra­cies, it added.

Duterte, how­ever, has lashed out at crit­ics of his war on il­le­gal drugs, which has left thou­sands of sus­pects dead in the past year. When then-U.S. Pres­i­dent Barack Obama raised con­cerns about the mount­ing death toll, Duterte told the pres­i­dent to “go to hell.”

Thorn­ton said Tiller­son’s trip to Manila will pro­vide a chance for a ro­bust bi­lat­eral pro­gram with the Philip­pines on the side­lines of the se­cu­rity meet­ings.

She said there will be much to talk about, in­clud­ing a siege by Is­lamic State ex­trem­ist group-linked mil­i­tants in the south­ern city of Marawi and grow­ing threats of in­ter­na­tional ter­ror­ism.

“But cer­tainly, we will be talk­ing about gov­er­nance, about hu­man-rights is­sues, and about how we can in­crease our eco­nomic and other kinds of peo­ple-to-peo­ple en­gage­ment with the Philip­pines,” she added.

Duterte’s spokesman, Es­rnesto Abella, said no an­nounce­ment has been made yet of a meet­ing be­tween Tiller­son and Duterte.

Hu­man-rights ad­vo­cates have called Duterte’s war on drugs an af­front to hu­man rights. They say his re­cent threat to bomb tribal schools that he ac­cused of teach­ing stu­dents to be­come com­mu­nist rebels could con­sti­tute war crimes, prompt­ing Duterte to clar­ify that the schools would only be bombed when the build­ings are empty.

Amnesty In­ter­na­tional has urged the United States to re­strict as­sis­tance to the Philip­pine na­tional po­lice and to link fu­ture aid to progress in pol­icy over­hauls and end­ing the im­punity of of­fi­cers who com­mit or over­see un­law­ful killings. It has called for sup­port for Philip­pine hu­man-rights de­fend­ers’ ef­forts to doc­u­ment atroc­i­ties, fight for ac­count­abil­ity and pro­mote an ap­proach based on pub­lic health in­stead of puni­tive ac­tion.

More than 5,200 drug sus­pects have died so far, in­clud­ing more than 3,000 in re­ported gun­bat­tles with po­lice and more than 2,000 oth­ers in drug-re­lated at­tacks by mo­tor­cy­cle-rid­ing masked gun­men and other as­saults, po­lice said. Hu­man-rights groups have re­ported a higher toll and called for an in­de­pen­dent in­ves­ti­ga­tion into Duterte’s pos­si­ble role in the vi­o­lence.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.