America needs to take action against Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte.
On Sept. 15, Edgar Matobato testified against Duterte, according to The Associated Press. Matobato, a former Filipino militiaman, revealed that Duterte ordered militiamen to kill 1,000 people during his time as city mayor. In a national statement, Matobato told Senate members that he heard former Mayor Duterte’s orders and was responsible, personally, for 50 of the 1,000 killings.
Extrajudicial killings are a serious matter.If these accusations are legitimate, Duterte must assume responsibility for his actions.
Duterte cannot assume responsibility, however, unless another power holds him accountable. That power needs to be the United States.
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The Senate committee members who heard Matobato's statement were led by Sen. Leila de Lima, according to the AP. Lima reportedly has opposed Duterte’s anti-drug policy since its introduction. In response, Duterte has accused Lima of involvement in the sale of illegal drugs.
In a shocking proclamation, Matobato stated that Duterte had ordered the killing of Lima while she was conducting investigations of Duterte’s extrajudicial killings in Davao, the city where Duterte held the role of mayor.
Matobato said that militiamen were in position to ambush Lima near a suspected grave.
“If you went inside the upper portion, we were already in ambush position,” the witness told Lima. “It's good that you left.”
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Hours after Matobato had made his statement, Duterte’s office responded, denying all claims of extrajudicial killings. Duterte’s communications secretary, Martin Andanar, told reporters that previous evidence proves Duterte’s innocence, according to CNN.
“The Commission on Human Rights already conducted an investigation years ago, when the President was still a Mayor, and charges were not filed, they did not see any direct evidence,” Andanar said.
Whether the accusations are true or not, America should still take action. At the very least, the United States should look into the supposed investigations of Duterte’s past.
A more appropriate action would involve limiting business with the Filipino government.
America has a recent record of distancing itself, appropriately, from global leaders who inflict harm on citizens unnecessarily.
On July 6, the United States placed Korean leader Kim Jong-un on the list of sanctioned individuals, according to USA Today. Recognizing that Kim was responsible for a great number of human rights abuses, including extrajudicial killings, the United States placed a ban on communication and involvement with the Korean leader.
Duterte, seemingly, is becoming increasingly dangerous. His human rights abuses, like those committed by Kim, should give the United States reason to take action.
Even if Matodato’s claims do not prove true after further investigation, Duterte’s recent public appearances have worried American leaders.
On Sept. 5, Duterte publicly bashed President Barack Obama, who canceled a meeting with the Filipino president in Laos, according to NBC. Though Duterte apologized and expressed regret for his words on Sept. 6, his comments were harsh and threatening toward Obama.
America has a responsibility as a global superpower to watch out for other countries, especially those who, like the Philippines, have been our allies in the past.
America needs to take action against Duterte to protect itself and also the citizens of the Philippines.