Published January 12, 2017 2:33pm
By XIANNE ARCANGEL, GMA News
United States secretary of state nominee Rex Tillerson has refused to call the Philippines a human rights violator despite President Rodrigo Duterte’s bloody war against drugs, saying he does not want to rely solely on media reports for his opinion.
Facing members of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee at his confirmation hearing on Wednesday, Tillerson was asked by Senator Marco Rubio whether the Duterte administration's aggressive campaign against illegal drugs was "conducive to human rights violations that we should be concerned about and condemning," considering that over 6,200 people have been killed since Duterte assumed office on June 30.
In response, Tillerson said that while he was not disputing the information Rubio cited, he also needs to get more facts on the issue.
“I'm not going to rely solely on what I read in the newspapers. I will go to facts on the ground. I’m sure there’s good, credible information available through our various government agencies,” he said.
Tillerson was also circumspect when Rubio asked him earlier during the hearing whether the Duterte administration’s approach was the “right way” to conduct an anti-drug campaign, saying the US government needs to remember its "long standing friendship" with the Philippines when dealing with its current leader.
“They have been an ally and we need to ensure they stay an ally,” he said.
In a letter in December 2016, Rubio, together with Senators Edward Markey and Christopher Coons, urged the US State Department to review its process of extending aid to the Philippines amid what they called "a campaign of mass atrocities" committed by the Duterte administration.
They said Duterte's war on drugs "appears to be a campaign of mass atrocities thinly disguised as a response to a public health emergency."
Solving the illegal drug problem in the country was one of Duterte’s campaign promises when he was still a candidate for the May 2016 elections. He later said he will wage the war against drugs until the end of his term.
Duterte has bristled at the concern expressed by local and international watchdog organizations over the rising death toll in his administration’s anti-drug campaign, lashing out with profanity-laced tirades against critics ranging from US President Barack Obama to the United Nations to the European Union. —KBK, GMA News
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