Two Americans — one, the nominee for U.S. Secretary of State; the other, a journalist-contributor for Forbes magazine — had something quite important to say to their countrymen and to all who are critical of Philippine President Duterte’s “human rights record.”
Secretary of state nominee Rex Tillerson hesitated to call the Philippines a human rights violator when asked for his opinion Wednesday at his Senate confirmation hearing. When asked by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Tillerson insisted he would need more information before he could assess whether the brutal crackdown on drugs led by the Philippine leader that has killed thousands could classify as a human rights abuse.
The former ExxonMobile executive added that he could not “rely solely on media reports,’ which is exactly what many people critical of Duterte have been doing.
Most media reports on the Philippines’ war on drugs have been based on misinformation or at the very least insufficient information being fed by local partisan journalists and bloggers or foreign reporters out specifically in search of the most sensational headlines and stories.
Varying numbers of those killed have been floated around, depending on who is reporting, but one thing that’s for sure is that many of the reports have failed — deliberately or otherwise — to distinguish among those that have been killed through police operations, those killed by unknown assailants, or perhaps even those killed for reasons other than drugs.
Tillerson shows not just statesmanship in his response but the intelligence in refusing to make any conclusion based on unverified reports.
Then, in a recent op-ed piece by Forbes contributor Ralph Jennings, he makes the “odd case” for Duterte not as a violator of human rights, but as a “provider” of human rights.
While Jennings acknowledges that “powerful voices from Europe, the United States and the United Nations” have tagged Duterte as a violator of human rights by letting police kill drug dealers, the writer asks the question: what about the rights of the rest of the country’s 100 million people?
Jennings cites not mere anecdotes but concrete numbers showing the Filipinos’ satisfaction and support for Duterte’s campaign to rid the streets of poverty, corruption and criminality.
Jennings concludes by saying that if street safety is a right — which we believe it is — then Duterte should indeed be considered a provider of human rights.
While it is wrong for anyone to say that the rights of a few thousand are less important than the rights of a hundred million, the rights of the greater number are important too and deserve the government’s protection nonetheless. This, to our mind, is what Duterte is trying to do for his country.
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