FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

September 27, 2016

Reference: Romeo Hebron, BAYAN-USA Finance Officer, finance@bayanusa.org

BAYAN-USA strongly condemns the over 3,000 drug related extrajudicial killings that have taken place within the first two months of President Rodrigo Duterte’s term. The President must put a stop to these killings. In the course of holding accountable those accused of drug-related crimes, he must uphold due process and abide by the rule of law.

Our criticism of the drug-related killings under the Duterte administration is based out of our genuine concern for people’s rights, including socio-economic rights, and the pursuit of a just and lasting peace in the Philippines. It must not be confused nor is it aligned with the US imperialist agenda, with the help of the media and US-backed institutions, and factions within the Philippine government that are disingenuous in their so-called concern for human rights and are merely using the issue opportunistically to destabilize the current Philippine Head of State for his strong opposition to traditional Philippine politics.

Address Poverty

Without properly addressing the socioeconomic conditions that lead to the sale and use of drugs, President Duterte’s drug war not only fails to solve the problem, but will be reduced to an attack on the poor and working class, those driven by poverty and hardship to sell drugs. Tackling poverty means developing the country’s backward, pre-industrial economy that currently provides for foreign corporations and interests rather than for domestic needs.  To do this, we call on President Duterte to adopt the People’s Agenda for Change, a 15-Point Program covering five major areas of concern: Economy, Social Policy, Governance, Peace & Human Rights, and National Sovereignty/Foreign Policy.

If President Duterte wants to fix the drug problem in the Philippines, he should avoid going the route of the discredited drug war waged by the U.S. in the 1980s, which poured hundreds of millions of dollars into military-style law enforcement sweeps that deliberately criminalized, imprisoned, and disenfranchised African Americans. Decades later, we still see the devastating impacts of the War on Drugs on black and brown communities, through the separated families, poverty, and mass incarcerations as a result of an unjust court system. Any approach that prioritizes law enforcement operations over comprehensive health and social services, prevention programs, and rehabilitation programs will result in more violence and killings rather than resolution of the problem.  

Advance the Peace Process

In addition to adopting the People’s Agenda, the Duterte administration is now set to embark on the second round of peace negotiations with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines this October 8 in Oslo, Norway. The said round of the peace process will now tackle actual roots of the armed conflict in the country– impoverishment, landlessness, and joblessness born from foreign economic intervention and lack of national sovereignty– and aims to achieve an agreement on basic social and economic reforms. BAYAN-USA believes the advancement of the peace process is not only key towards resolving the 47 year old civil war, but can address the structural roots of the drug problem in the country through identifying progressive reforms and policies.

While the Western media chooses to focus on the drug war versus continuing wars of aggression and violent acts of intervention led by US imperialism in all parts of the globe, the significance of the peace process in contributing to the alleviation of the Filipino people’s suffering through negotiated reforms is underappreciated at best, derailed at worst. We call on President Duterte, now as the Chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), to ensure the safeguarding of the peace process, to work for economic sovereignty in order to pave the way for national industrialization and land reform, which are the basic changes needed to resolve the drug problem.

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BAYAN-USA is an alliance of 20 progressive Filipino organizations in the U.S. representing students, scholars, women, workers, artists, and youth. As the first and largest international chapter of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN-Philippines), BAYAN-USA serves as an information bureau for the national democratic movement of the Philippines and as a center for educating, organizing, and mobilizing anti-imperialist and progressive Filipinos in the U.S.  For more information, visit www.bayanusa.org