MANILA, Philippines, July 9, (Agencies): The new Philippine president blamed US intervention for the bloody conflicts in Iraq and other Middle Eastern countries in his latest criticism of Manila’s closest security ally. President Rodrigo Duterte suggested in a speech Friday that intrusive policy was to blame for attacks on US soil, saying, “It is not that the Middle East is exporting terrorism to America, America imported terrorism.”
“They forced their way to Iraq … look at Iraq now, look what happened to Libya, look what happened to Syria,” he told the Muslim community in southern Davao city in a ceremony marking the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan. “People are being annihilated there including children.” The former Davao mayor has said he would be a leftist president who would chart a foreign policy not dependent on the United States. He has pointed out the benefi ts of nurturing friendly relations with Beijing, including a Chinese offer of financing railway projects in the Philippines.
The country has had frosty ties with China under Duterte’s predecessor, Benigno Aquino III, who bolstered security ties with the US to deter China’s assertiveness in the disputed South China Sea. Despite his remarks, there has been no indication that he would move to change the country’s robust defense ties with the United States.
The treaty allies hold largescale combat exercises each year and signed a 2014 defense pact that allows the US military to temporarily base troops and build and operate facilities in Philippine military camps. China has criticized the pact. In the Philippines, Duterte has given allies of communist rebels at least two key posts in his Cabinet as part of an effort to forge a peace deal with the insurgents, who are labeled terrorists by Washington.
Duterte’s speech centered on his plan to open peace talks with two large Muslim rebel groups in the southern Mindanao region, homeland of minority Muslims in the largely Roman Catholic nation. Duterte’s plan includes shifting to a federal system of government that would give more autonomy and resources to impoverished regions like Mindanao. He called on Muslims to back his efforts. “As a nation, we must sit down,” he said. “Why will we kill each other?” In the case of Abu Sayyaf militants, Duterte said he would not lump them with criminals, saying “these were the guys who were driven to desperation.” He did not say how he would try to deal with the extremists although he has warned them in recent weeks to stop a wave of ransom kidnappings or face “a reckoning one of these days.”
Washington and Manila list the Abu Sayyaf as a terrorist organization that has carried out for bombings, kidnappings and beheadings over the last three decades. In other news, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on crime is spiralling out of control, a top human rights lawyer and opposition lawmakers said Friday after police confirmed killing more than 100 people. Duterte won the May 9 election by landslide largely on a pledge to kill tens of thousands of narcotics suspects and other criminals, and has urged the police and civilians to help in the killings.
“President Duterte’s war on crime has spawned a nuclear explosion of violence that is spiralling out of control and creating a nation without judges, without law, and without reason,” Free Legal Assistance Group chairman Jose Manuel Diokno said. Diokno, also a prominent law professor, likened the killings to the actions of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, accused of killing thousands of dissidents during a 20-year rule that ended in 1986. Police said Thursday that they had killed 103 drug suspects who resisted arrest, but insisted they had operated within the boundaries of the law.
“They put in danger the lives of our police officers who then had to defend themselves,” police spokesman Dionaldo Carlos said. About 10 criminal suspects had been killed by police or suspected vigilantes each day since Duterte took his oath of office, according to a running tally by the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper.
Forty-three were killed as part of police operations, while 29 others, five of them yet to be identified, were victims of “vigilante-style killings”, it added. Among the dead was a policeman found tied to a post Thursday with a cardboard sign hanging from his chest that accused him of being a “police drug pusher”.
A photo of the victim was published on the paper’s front page on Friday Suspicion Police in nearby Bulacan province said he had been under surveillance on suspicion of ties with drug gangs. “That was the life he chose, so there’s no one to blame for his fate,” the provincial police chief, Senior Superintendent Romeo Caramat, told Manila television network ABS-CBN in an interview. Duterte, who during the election campaign said 100,000 people would die in his war on crime, on Thursday threatened an alleged drug dealer with death if he returned to the Philippines.
“The moment he steps out of the plane, he will die,” Duterte said on national television. Duterte also named two jailed drug dealers who he said continued to distribute illegal drugs from inside their cells. “My appeal to them is that, since they are beyond redemption, they can stop and commit suicide because I will not allow these idiots to run their show,” he added. House of Representatives member Teddy Baguilat said the president’s rhetoric “breeds a culture of violence and culture of retribution”. Baguilat and Senator Leila de Lima, who served as justice minister in the previous government, both told AFP on Friday they had asked Congress to investigate the killings.
“The killings are on the rise, and there are just telltale signs of summary executions in a number of them,” de Lima said. Nine people were killed overnight in the Philippines, authorities said Saturday, as police and suspected anti-drug gunmen pushed ahead with Duterte’s controversial war on crime.
Duterte won the May 9 election by landslide largely on a pledge to kill tens of thousands of drug dealers and other criminals, and has urged the police and civilians to help in the killings. More than 100 suspects have been killed in the seven weeks since Duterte’s election. One pre-dawn raid in the town of Matalam, about 900 kilometres (600 miles) south of Manila, left eight “drug personalities” dead Saturday, including a woman, regional police spokesman Superintendent Romeo Galgo told reporters. One other person was arrested on suspicion of drug offences, Galgo said, adding that three pistols and four grenades were found on the dead suspects.
In Manila, police said they found a yet to be identified dead man, his entire head wrapped in tape, on a poorly lit road late Friday. His torso was covered with a cardboard sign reading: “I Am A Pusher”. Civil rights campaigners including two legislators called Friday for an enquiry into recent months’ police operations amid concerns at least some of the dead suspects could have been summarily executed by the lawmen. Police have said they had operated within the boundaries of the law in killing 103 suspects between May 10 and July 7. The Manila newspaper Philippine Daily Inquirer’s own “kill list” of suspected criminals showed 119 victims of suspected summary killings up until July 7, including 13 unidentified ones, since the elections.