UNITED NATIONS—Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr. on Saturday pushed back against criticism of President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs, telling the United Nations not to interfere.
“We urge everyone to allow us to deal with our domestic challenges in order to achieve our national goals, without undue interference,” Yasay told the UN General Assembly.
There has been growing international alarm over the rising death toll from Duterte’s crackdown on crime, with human rights groups saying that security forces are engaging in extrajudicial killings.
Duterte won elections in a landslide in May after vowing to eradicate the illegal drug trade in six months, and promising that 100,000 criminals would be killed in the process.
Since he took office on June 30 about 3,000 people have been killed, about a third of them suspects shot dead by police and the rest murdered by unidentified attackers, according to police statistics.
“We have not and we will never empower our law enforcement agents to shoot-to-kill individuals suspected of drug crimes,” Yasay told the General Assembly.
“Extrajudicial killings have no place in our society, and in our criminal justice system.”
The top diplomat told the General Assembly that Duterte enjoyed a 92-percent approval rating at home for his stance and suggested that his campaign was misunderstood.
“Our actions, however, have grabbed both the national headlines and international attention for all the wrong reasons,” he said.
He argued that corruption and drugs had “torn apart many of our communities, destroyed our families and snuffed out the hopes and dreams of our people—young and old—for a bright future.”
Invoking the UN’s new sustainable development goals adopted last year, Yasay said his country would not be able to meet those goals without tackling corruption and drugs.
Relations between Duterte and the United Nations have been tense after the newly-elected leader launched several tirades against the world body for its criticism of his tactics, even threatening to pull out—a threat he later withdrew.
Earlier this month, Duterte declined a meeting with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on the sidelines of a meeting in Laos of South East Asian leaders, and later referred to him as a fool.
The Palace on Sunday reiterated Yasay’s call for non-interference, and said this reflected the stance of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
“It’s the Asean way, part of the Asean values that whatever happens in other countries, we will not get involved. Whatever happens to us, they will also not get involved. We have our own problems to solve and they also have their own problems to solve,” said Communications Secretary Martin Andanar on state-run radio dzRB.
On the other hand, Andanar said, President Duterte had invited the European Union and the United Nations last week investigate the so-called extrajudicial killings and alleged human rights violations.
“This means that the President is open to international organizations to check on the records on extrajudicial killing,” Andanar said.
Asked if the government impose certain restrictions on how the investigation would be conducted and if these were a form of censorship as Senator Leila de Lima suggested, Andanar said he had not seen any restrictions.
“The President is willing to write a letter to invite them,” he said.
“We are not hiding anything and we are not pretending,” he said, referring to the President’s tendency to use expletives.
“When the President became a candidate, he always mentioned ‘PI’ in his sorties. But still, he won... This means our countrymen sees our President in a deeper way,” he said.
Earlier, De Lima said she found it questionable that the administration would decide which places could be visited and which persons were to be interviewed by UN special rapporteurs during a planned visit to the Philippines.
“What kind of investigation can we expect if the government is going to decide how the investigation is going to be conducted by UN rapporteur’s team?” she asked.
“What is the sense of inviting independent probers if they are not going to be allowed freedom of movement and action, and are going to be dictated upon on the extent of their visits and sources of information?” she added.
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