President Trump invited President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines to the White House on Saturday after having a “very friendly conversation with Mr. Duterte” in which the two “discussed the fact that the Philippines is fighting very hard to rid its country of drugs.”
To host President Duterte at the White House is to endorse his deadly drug war policies. The Trump Administration should immediately withdraw its invitation to Duterte and publicly denounce the mass killings he has advocated for, or risk embarrassing the country with the sight of the U.S. President greeting a remorseless, self-confessed murderer.
Since he was elected President last May, Duterte has championed a campaign that is responsible for extrajudicial killing of thousands of people.
Duterte has repeatedly shown complete disregard for due process or human rights. In his call for the murder of people who use or sell drugs, he promised medals for citizens who comply, and pardons for police if they are charged with human rights violations while carrying out the executions. He has even likened himself to Hitler. These extrajudicial killings have largely claimed the lives of the country’s most marginalized and vulnerable citizens, including those who are unemployed or underemployed.
Last summer, more than 300 non-governmental organizations sent an open letter to the UNODC Executive Director, Mr. Yury Fedotov, and the INCB President, Mr. Werner Sipp, asking them to take immediate action aimed at putting a stop to the extrajudicial killings.
Despite international calls for Duterte to end the extrajudicial killings, he has refused to change direction, responding to anyone who has questioned his anti-drug strategy with insults, including former President Obama, the Pope, the International Criminal Court and the United Nations. He has also threatened to kill human rights defenders who attempt to intervene in his war on drugs.
In December 2016, an advisor to Trump’s transition team on security policy said that the president-elect would start a “clean slate” with Duterte “without being wedded to previous policy failures.” Days later, President Trump praised Duterte for his efforts and The New York Times ran a feature piece documenting the homicide victims of Duterte’s brutal drug war.
While Trump is embracing the horrific approach taken by the president of the Philippines, he is also doubling down on the failed drug war here in the U.S. both in his rhetoric and his appointments, most notably Jeff Sessions as Attorney General.
Trump has signaled his intent to escalate the drug war at home, but this invitation signals his approval of the bloodiest of tactics at an international level in the name of the war on drugs. It would be shameful to see the red carpet rolled out by Trump for Duterte, a man with so much blood on his hands.
Michael Collins is the Deputy Director at Drug Policy Alliance’s Office of National Affairs, where he works on marijuana and sentencing reform.