Wednesday, August 30, 2017

It's unacceptable children are deemed collateral damage in Duterte's war on drugs

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AUGUST 24 2017

It's unacceptable children are deemed collateral damage in Duterte's war on drugs

Lindsay Murdoch

Bangkok: Imagine this, children as young three described as "collateral damage".

More than 12,000 people killed in just 14 months, most of them urban slum dwellers.modal window.

Police kill at least 13 people in Manila on the third night of an escalation in President Rodrigo Duterte's ruthless war on drugs and crime, taking the toll for one of the bloodiest weeks so far to 80.

If bodies continue to pile up at this rate the death toll of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte's "war on drugs" could top 60,000 in six years.

Where is the outrage from Australia?

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Photographs splashed across the media show Australia's top spy Nick Warner fist-pumping to the camera during a meeting with Mr Duterte in the presidential palace on Wednesday.

It was not a good look for the director-general of the Australian Secret Intelligence Service, even if grave matters like Islamic State's arrival in the southern Philippines may have been discussed in the private meeting.

Mr Duterte ordered the drugs crackdown and has been accused by the United Nations of presiding over what could amount to a crime against humanity.

Earlier this year Foreign Minister Julie Bishop travelled to Mr Duterte's hometown, Davao, in the southern Philippines in what human rights groups called a "pilgrimage to a mass murderer".

Funeral workers prepare to remove the body of a crime suspect after he was killed in gunbattles late in Manila, Philippines. Photo: AP

"We never discussed human rights. [Australians] are so courteous," Mr Duterte said after the trip.

Ms Bishop disputes the President's portrayal of their meeting and says Australia has "several times" raised reports of extra-judicial killings under the crackdown with Mr Duterte and his senior officials.

Australia's spy chief Nick Warner with Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte in Manila. Photo: Supplied

The Turnbull government also joined international condemnation of killings at the UN human rights commission in Geneva in May.

And as recently as Monday, Ms Bishop said Australia was "deeply concerned" after the bloodiest five days of the crackdown, including the execution by police of a 17-year-old high school student.

Filipino student activists call for justice for victims of extrajudicial killings during a rally at the University of the Philippines in suburban Quezon last year, Photo: AP

And she told a press conference on Thursday it was Mr Duterte's idea to be photographed with Mr Warner.

But Elaine Pearson, Australia director at Human Rights Watch, said it is "sickening that the head of Australia's spy agency would pose for a photo effectively fist-pumping a leader who has instigated the killing of thousands of people in the so-called war on drugs."

Jomari, a friend of Kian Loyd delos Santos, refuses to leave the wake. Photo: AP

"It really adds insult to injury to the Filipino victims and to the families of those who've been murdered in cold blood as part of this campaign," she said.

But Mr Duterte, a 72-year-old foul-mouthed former provincial mayor, doesn't see any outrage from Australia, a long-time ally, over the largest number of civilians killings in south-east Asia since the Khmer Rouge genocide and Vietnam War in the 1970s.

After a meeting in late July with Ms Bishop and separately with the US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on the sidelines of the ASEAN meeting, Mr Duterte told reporters that Australia and the US "mostly, they have considerably toned down on human rights".

It is clear that words alone from Australia's foreign minister have failed to resonate with a man who has emerged as south-east Asia's most dangerous dictator in decades.

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