Manila is facing waves of international criticism over President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs. In response, Bloomberg reports, Duterte says he may pull out of the United Nations:
“Maybe we’ll just have to decide to separate from the United Nations,” Duterte said in a two-hour briefing in his home base of Davao in the early hours of Sunday. “If you are this rude,” he said, Manila will leave: “Take us out of your organization. You have done nothing anyway.”
Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay later clarified: “The president was tired, disappointed, hungry when he made the statement.” Now that he’s had a snack, presumably, he sees things differently.
Longtime Via Meadia readers know that we’re not exactly the type to jump up and down, pom-poms in hand, whenever UN special rapporteurs for human rights parade by, but in this case the august international body is pointing to something genuinely worrying. Over 1,800 people have died in Duterte’s campaign, most of them killed by vigilante groups. It’s not clear whether those groups are connected to Duterte or whether they’re simply inspired by his rhetoric and example. As Mayor of Davao, Duterte was known to have vigilantes at his beck and call whenever something extrajudicial needed to be done. So you can be sure that many in the Philippines at least suspect that the killings are at Duterte’s direction, whatever the truth may be.
Regardless, Duterte is certainly instilling fear: 600,000 people have turned themselves in for drug-related offenses. “Duterte Harry,” as he is known in the country, has promised to crack down on violence and end the drug epidemic. (Asia hands may recall a similar campaign under Shinawatra in Thailand).
Internationally, all eyes remain on Duterte to see how he will react to the Hague ruling last month that backed Manila’s objections to China’s territorial claims. The Philippines is set to meet with China for bilateral negotiations soon. Duterte, however, seems preoccupied by domestic concerns.