Pubdate: Wed, 28 Dec 2016
Source: Philippine Star (Philippines)
Copyright: PhilSTAR Daily Inc. 2016


MANILA, Philippines -- Three American senators asked the US Department of
State to explain the use of funding aid in the Philippines to make sure
the money is not being used for the government's war on drugs.

US Senators Edward Markey (D-Massachusetts), Marco Rubio (R-Florida) and
Christopher Coons (D-Delaware) have expressed grave concern over alleged
extrajudicial killings and human rights violations in the country under
the President Rodrigo Duterte's anti-narcotics campaign.

"The Philippine anti-drug movement known as Project [Tokhang] in fact
appears to be a campaign of mass atrocities thinly disguised as a response
to a public health emergency," the senators said in a letter addressed to
US Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs Assistant
Secretary William Brownfield.

The senators noted that instead of addressing the drug problem, investing
in treatment programs or approaching the issue with an emphasis on health,
Duterte has "pledged to kill another 20,000 to 30,000 people, many simply
because they suffer from a drug use disorder."

The senators stressed that drug addiction is not a moral failing but a
chronic disease.

Citing the United Nations (UN) World Drug Report, Markey, Rubio and Coons
noted that more than 29 million people are now living with a drug use

Earlier this year, the UN had identified the need for a balanced approach
to drug control which prioritizes the health and well-being of people,
families and communities.

"Duterte's anti-drug campaign does just the opposite, and exhibits an
abhorrent response to the public health crisis of drug addiction," the
senators' letter read.

The senators requested the US Department of State to explain the process
for tracking the use of US funds in the Philippines to ensure that none of
their foreign assistance money is being allocated to law enforcement
activities supporting the war on drugs.

The senators also asked what work the US government is doing to remedy the
drug crisis in the Philippines and to help people recover from addiction.

"Is the US directly or indirectly supporting access to treatment and other
services for those dealing with a substance use disorder? Do Philippine
law enforcement services, which we support, work directly with health
agencies on these matters?" the senator asked Brownfield.

Markey, Rubio and Coons requested the State Department to check that it is
ensuring full compliance with the Leahy Law in relation to its assistance
to the Philippines in light of Duterte's campaign against drugs.

The Leahy Law prohibits the US Department of State and Department of
Defense from providing assistance to foreign military units that violate
human rights. In September, US Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont), author of
that law, also raised concerns on human rights.

"[W]hen governments condone extrajudicial killings and forced
disappearances, and prey on vulnerable populations, they are sowing the
seeds of instability, not preventing it," he said then.

The senators maintained that the use of law enforcement can help monitor
and control illegal drug sales but stressed that extrajudicial killings
are not a form of justice.

"We urge the US to denounce these horrific violations of basic human
rights, and ensure that no foreign assistance is being provided to support
egregious acts against humanity," the senators said.

Earlier this year, the US State Department put a planned sale of assault
rifles to the Philippine National Police on hold over human rights
concerns. This month, the US foreign aid agency Millennium Challenge
Corporation deferred voting on an aid package to the Philippines due to
rule of law and rights issues. It may vote on the package again in March

The aid package would have followed a five-year $434 million poverty
reduction program that it funded during the previous administration.
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