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Harm Reduction Coalition strongly condemns Duterte invitation to White House by President Trump

On April 29th, President Trump extended an official invitation to the Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte to visit the White House. Harm Reduction Coalition stands in solidarity with people who use drugs in the Philippines and strongly condemns the invitation to the White House of a head of state committing grave human rights abuses against people who use drugs.

Since May of 2016, over 7,200 people have been slaughtered by Filipino police and death-squad-style extrajudicial executions by police agents, as part of a violent crackdown on people suspected of using or trading drugs. Unofficial estimates of the number of people killed are as high as 9,000, many while wearing handcuffs, or after surrendering under the false pretense of receiving amnesty. A further 35,600 have been arrested in the violent crackdown, representing mass violations of human rights.

President Duterte has a long history of violence; in his 22 years as a mayor of Davao City, he supported the extrajudicial killings of people suspected of being involved in crime. Duterte has boasted of killing people while mayor, and investigators have evidence of government-linked death squads. Duterte has also urged Filipino citizens to shoot and kill people suspected of trading in drugs who resisted arrest, and reiterated that these killings were lawful if the police acted in self-defense.

President Trump’s call with Duterte this past weekend was not their first conversation. Early in December, then President-elect Trump spoke with the Philippines President and reportedly endorsed his brutal anti-drug campaign, telling Mr. Duterte that the Philippines was conducting it “the right way” and “wishes (Duterte) well, too, in (his anti-drug) campaign.”

Investigations by Human Rights Watch found that police routinely kill people in cold blood and then cover up their crime by planting drugs and guns at the scene.

Daniel Berehulak, awarded the Pulitzer Prize last month for breaking news photography for his coverage of extrajudicial killings in the Philippines, stated (warning: link contains graphic images):

 “I witnessed bloody scenes just about everywhere imaginable — on the sidewalk, on train tracks, in front of a girls’ school, outside 7-Eleven stores and a McDonald’s restaurant, across bedroom mattresses and living-room sofas. I watched as a woman in red peeked at one of those grisly sites through fingers held over her eyes, at once trying to protect herself and permit herself one last glance at a man killed in the middle of a busy road….

“I have worked in 60 countries, covered wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and spent much of 2014 living inside West Africa’s Ebola zone, a place gripped by fear and death. What I experienced in the Philippines felt like a new level of ruthlessness: police officers’ summarily shooting anyone suspected of dealing or even using drugs, vigilantes’ taking seriously Mr. Duterte’s call to ‘slaughter them all.’”

Despite the widespread international condemnation over the extrajudicial killings, Duterte’s brutality shows no signs of slowing. He has threatened to declare martial law in the country if the Supreme Court does not support him, and has stated, “I will crush the drug problem and criminality even if I have to soak my blood. So be it.”

Harm Reduction Coalition stands in solidarity with people who use drugs in the Philippines. We call upon President Trump to immediately rescind his invitation to Duterte to visit the White House and denounce the killings, egregious human rights violations, and grave threats to public health and order that Duterte has unashamedly promoted.

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