By BENJIE OLIVEROS
When current US Pres. Barack Obama canceled a bilateral meeting with Philippine Pres. Rodrigo Duterte at the sidelines of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit, some politicians, senators, and even some from the media criticized the latter for causing the cancellation. Some even warned that if President Duterte continues behaving like that, the country would be isolated from the rest of the international community.
The cancellation of the bilateral meeting was attributed to the strong reaction of President Duterte when asked, during an interview before he left for the ASEAN meeting in Laos, how he would address questions regarding human rights that would reportedly be raised by US President Obama during their scheduled bilateral meeting. The reporters were referring to the announcement by the White House that US President Obama would be taking up the issue of human rights with President Duterte.
President Duterte reportedly responded angrily saying that the Philippines is not a vassal state, not a colony of the US anymore. He then addressed newspaper columnists who have been saying that he would be answerable to Obama calling them “lapdogs of the US.” He warned Obama to be respectful and that he would curse the US president if the latter tries to lecture him on human rights. President Duterte then raised the question why the US never apologized for the 600,000 Moros killed by US troops during the pacification campaign in Mindanao. President Duterte also questioned the human rights record of the US in the annihilation of the American Indians, and the extrajudicial killings at the border with Mexico.
“We have long been a Republic. I do not, I said, I do not kneel down before anybody else, except the Filipino in Quiapo walking in misery and in extreme poverty and anger.”
In later interviews, President Duterte also mentioned the police killings of African Americans. President Duterte challenged the US to clean up its backyard first.
Some cautioned President Duterte to be respectful and diplomatic.
Well, at last, for the first time, a Philippine president did not try hard to please or act as a parrot of the US president. For the first time, a Philippine president did not act subserviently to a US president.
A lot has already been said about the tendency of President Duterte to use foul, colorful language.
People have also been criticizing the spike in extrajudicial killings of drug suspects and have been constantly reminding the Duterte administration to respect human rights in its war on drugs. And the people should keep doing so.
However, President Duterte is right in saying that the US should be respectful and that it should appreciate the situation first before lecturing him on human rights. President Duterte is correct in saying that the US should not treat the Philippines as its vassal state, its colony, which could be told what to do. President Duterte hit the mark in saying that the US should look at its human rights record first before lecturing a sovereign nation about human rights.
In addition to the human rights violations being committed by the US within its borders and the historical crimes it committed when it launched a war of aggression to annex the Philippines are the crimes against humanity that it has been continuously committing in its current wars of aggression in different parts of the world.
The number of civilian deaths due to violence in Iraq since the US invaded that sovereign nation in 2003 has reached from 163,453 to 182,569. Including combatants, the Iraq body count has reached 251, 000. The body count in Afghanistan since the 2001 invasion by the US is 104,000, including 31,000 civilians.
Even US President Obama has no regard for human rights when he escalated drone killings all over the world, especially in Pakistan, Yemen, Afghanistan and Somalia. And the Obama administration has not been divulging the civilian casualties of its drone strikes. An analysis by human rights group Reprieve of civilian casualties of drone strikes revealed that attempts to kill 41 men resulted in the deaths of 1,147 people.
An article published by the Atlantic, March 14, 2016, The Obama Administration’s Drone-Strike Dissembling reported that: “Numerous reports during the Obama Administration––including at least one by a former drone pilot––describe a pattern in which a missile fired from a U.S. drone hits an area, bystanders rush to the scene to help the wounded, and the drone, still overhead, kills the rescuers. On other occasions, drones have struck at funerals of drone-strike victims. It is hard to believe the threshold of “near certainty” is crossed in either kind of strike. Credible reports of civilian casualties are common.”
If one would want to know more about not only the civilian casualties of drone strikes but the whole framework of the program and how it violates human rights, read The Drone Papers by the Intercept.
President Duterte should address the spike in extrajudicial killings of drug suspects and prosecute the perpetrators, whether they are policemen, vigilantes, or drug syndicates. But President Duterte did nothing wrong, and actually did the nation a service by standing up to the world bully, the US and asserting the nation’s sovereignty.
Contrary to the claims of Filipino apologists of the US, who President Duterte aptly calls as “lapdogs of the US,” the US would not pull out of the Philippines and drop its agreements with the government just because of President Duterte’s tirade against Obama. As US President Obama has said in one of his speeches at the ASEAN summit, the US is here to stay in Asia; and the location of the Philippines is strategic to the US pivot to Asia. In fact, if the Filipino people would want the US to leave the country and the region, we have to fight for it.