Philippine President Rodrigro Duterte made it clear Monday he has no interest in what Barack Obama thinks about his heavy-handed war on drugs and the extrajudicial killings associated with it.
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Duterte’s outburst, in which he vowed to “swear at” Obama should the U.S. president bring up the killings of suspected drug dealers, led to White House cancelling a planned meeting between the two leaders during a Southeast Asian leaders meeting in Laos this week.
“I am a president of a sovereign state and we have long ceased to be a colony. I do not have any master except the Filipino people, nobody but nobody. You must be respectful. Do not just throw questions. Putang ina I will swear at you in that forum,” Duterte said, using the Tagalog phrase for son of a bitch.
Since Duterte was inaugurated June 30, as many as 2,400 people have died amid a nationwide crackdown on the drugs in the Philippines.
“We will not stop until the last drug lord, the last financier, and the last pusher have surrendered or put behind bars — or below the ground, if they so wish,” CNN reported Duterte as saying in his State of the Nation speech on July 25.
The extrajudicial killings have alarmed the U.S., the United Nations and human rights alike, especially given that more than half of the killings appear to have been at the hands of vigilantes.
According to the Philippine National Police, police officers have killed more than 1,000 people suspected of having involvement in the drug trade. But nearly 1,400 deaths were considered “under investigation.”
Duterte has openly endorsed vigilante killings of drug dealers, drug addicts and other alleged criminals, on multiple occasions prodding everyday citizens to take matters into their own hands.
“If you know of any addicts, go ahead and kill them yourself,” he reportedly told an audience of approximately 500 people in a Manila slum on June 30.
Duterte hasn’t taken kindly to international condemnation of his campaign to root out criminals.
UN human rights experts last month called on Duterte and his government to put an end to extra-judicial killings, saying: “Allegations of drug-trafficking offences should be judged in a court of law, not by gunmen on the streets.”
“Claims to fight illicit drug trade do not absolve the Government from its international legal obligations and do not shield State actors or others from responsibility for illegal killings,” UN Special Rapporteur on summary executions Agnes Callamard said in an Aug. 18 statement.
Duterte called the UN experts “stupid” and threatened to leave the world body.
There’s no sign he’s going to let up his anti-drug crusade anytime soon.
Philippine National Police Chief Ronald Dela Rosa, whom Duterte tasked with overseeing the crackdown, warned Monday no one is immune from facing punishment if suspected of being involved in crime.
“Rest assured, we do not discriminate,” Agence France-Press reported Dela Rosa as saying. “All of them, the rich, the poor, police, civilians… even if you are a politician, you will die if you are into drugs and you fight back.”
With files from The Associated Press