By Lucia Edna P. de Guzman

White House flags anew Duterte’s war on drugs

Posted on December 12, 2016

“THAT’s not going to solve the problem.’”

Outgoing White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest raised anew what he called the “extrajudicial killings” and “vigilante justice” in the Philippines’ war on drugs on President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s watch.

In a press briefing last Wednesday, Dec. 7, Mr. Earnest was asked, “Philippine President Duterte has given out a readout of his recent conversation with president-elect Trump and he says that Trump said basically, don’t worry about US concerns about your fight against drug criminals; go ahead, you’re doing a good job. How alarming is that to the US, given that what we’re essentially talking about -- or what you’ve talked about from that podium is the killing of thousands of people without any kind of due process?”

Mr. Earnest in response said he had “no special knowledge of the telephone conversation between the president-elect and the President of the Philippines, so I can’t be in a position to critique the view that’s being expressed by the president-elect to the President of the Philippines.”

“What I can do, however, is restate the position of this administration, the position of the current US government, and that is simply that extrajudicial killings are entirely inconsistent with the notion of the rule of law and a commitment to upholding basic, universal human rights. It’s plain and simple,” Mr. Earnest added.

He noted as well the “significant challenge facing the government of the Philippines to combat the drug trade,” which is “a legitimate problem that’s worth confronting.”

“But President Duterte has certainly raised concerns about the degree to which his government is at least willing to look the other way while these kinds of extrajudicial killings are taking place and while vigilante justice is being meted out,” Mr. Earnest also said, adding, “That’s not going to solve the problem.”

Mr. Earnest noted too that “the United States has been supportive of previous efforts by the Philippines to confront the drug trade and try to limit, if not eradicate it.”

He emphasized as well the “higher-level principle” of sustaining alliances on the face of “differences of opinion.”

Mr. Earnest said: “One of the reasons that it’s important for us to invest in the durability and strength of our alliances is so that we can acknowledge publicly when we disagree. It’s the sign of a strong relationship that we can acknowledge differences of opinion and encourage our closest friends around the world to live up to the values that our countries and our people prioritize. It’s a sign of weakness in a relationship if you can’t acknowledge differences of opinion.”

He added that “we don’t agree with our allies on every issue. And preserving the strength of those alliances and investing in the strength of those alliances allows us to, where appropriate, air those differences and not shy away from them,” he added.

“And in this case, it’s important because the United States draws upon our adherence to these values because it contributes to our influence around the world,” Mr. Earnest noted further, adding, “Countries want to be allied with the United States because they recognize what it is that we stand for. And when we stay true to those values, it only enhances our influence around the globe. That makes us safer.”

“And signaling a willingness to backtrack from those values is bad for our individual relationships, but it’s also bad for -- degrades our ability to exert our influence around the world.”