'Innocent people get hurt if done the wrong way' United States President Barack Obama on Thursday urged Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte to carry out his war on crime and illegal drugs ''the right way." Duterte and Obama's supposed first meeting at the ASEAN Summit in Laos was cancelled after the tough-talking Filipino leader cursed when asked in a press conference what he would do if Obama brought up the issue of human rights in relation to the new administration's war on drugs.
Duterte has since apologized for the gaffe, and Obama said today he is not taking the Philippine leader's cursing personally. However, Obama said in his press conference at the end of the ASEAN Summit that the US will not back down on its position against waging a war on drugs that is not consistent with the rule of law and respect for human rights.
''We want to partner with the Philippines with the particular issue of narco-traffickers, which is a serious problem in the Philippines. It's a serious problem in United States and around the world,'' he said. Obama emphasized that he wants a partnership that is "consistent with international norms and rule of law." "We're not going to back off on our position that if we're working with a country, whether it's on anti-terrorism, whether it's on going after drug traffickers, as despicable as these networks may be, as much as damage as they do, it is important from our perspective to make sure that we do it the right way," he added.
Obama warned that employing unlawful means in solving a problem would only spawn even more problems. ''Because the consequences when you do it the wrong way, innocent people get hurt. And you have a whole bunch of unintended consequences that don't solve the problem," he said. Over 1,400 have been killed either by police or suspected vigilante groups since Duterte won the presidential elections last May 9. Sixty percent were killed during police operations, based on monitoring by the ABS-CBN Investigative and Research Group. A total of 450 deaths (32%) were killed by unidentified assailants. There are concerns that some policemen carrying out anti-drug operations are involved in the illegal drug trade themselves. Duterte's pronouncement that he will fully back policemen who will be charged for killing drug suspects has been criticized by human rights groups as a tacit endorsement of extra-judicial killings.