Senator Patrick Leahy and Senator Benjamin Cardin On Recent Developments in the Philippines and Indonesia

Senator Patrick Leahy and Senator Benjamin Cardin
Recent Developments in the Philippines and Indonesia
Congressional Record

September 26 2016

MR. LEAHY: Mr. President, according to recent reports, more than 3,000 people have been killed in the Philippines in the twelve weeks since President Duterte announced his campaign to wipe out illicit drug use.

More than 1,000 of those deaths were at the hands of the Philippine National Police during counternarcotic operations, compared to 68 such killings this year in the months prior to President Duterte taking office, half of which happened in the period between his election and inauguration. The rest were killed apart from police operations, incited by President Duterte’s violent rhetoric, which has been well documented. The vast majority of these individuals were low-level drug users, victims of a government seeking to make up for years of ineffective, corrupt law enforcement and rampant crime by terrorizing the population into submission.

As the ranking member or chairman for more than 25 years of the Senate Appropriations subcommittee that funds U.S. foreign assistance programs, I have been frustrated that we often fail to learn obvious lessons when it comes to foreign assistance investments. One example is that economic opportunity and security alone cannot assure stability. Stability requires legitimate governance and the protection of human rights. This is not just an aspiration; it is a practical, strategic imperative.

As a former prosecutor and now ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, I know the difference between those who need help versus those who deserve to be punished. I also know, as do most people, that when governments condone extrajudicial killings and forced disappearances, and prey on vulnerable populations, they are sowing the seeds of instability, not preventing it.

For roughly 700,000 Filipino drug users, the prospect of being summarily executed on the street has led them to turn themselves into the authorities. That would seem to be a good thing. But given the shortage of drug treatment centers, these individuals are either told to pledge that they will remain drug free and sent home to recover on their own, or they are imprisoned in overcrowded, inhumane conditions. By failing to address the needs of those who have risked coming forward, President Duterte is missing an opportunity to combat the drug trade in one of the most sustainable ways possible: by helping hundreds of thousands of people get the help they want to beat their addiction.

No amount of killing will result in reforms that improve the judiciary, end corruption and impunity in law enforcement, or rehabilitate those caught in the vicious cycle of addiction. To the contrary, if President Duterte is serious about improving conditions in the Philippines, he should be focusing on improving services for Filipinos, not casting them aside; holding law enforcement accountable, not giving them a blanket license to kill suspects; and strengthening the judiciary, not undercutting it.

In a troubling sign that these concerns are falling on deaf ears, President Duterte’s most vocal opponent of his anti-drug policies, who President Duterte has publicly accused of being involved in drug trafficking and attempting to smear him, was recently removed from her position as the head of the Senate human rights panel investigating the killings. She was replaced by a Senator who supports giving the police the authority to arrest anyone without a warrant.

I know that as Ranking Member of the Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Cardin also has concerns with the situation in the Philippines, and I yield to him for any remarks he may wish to make.

Mr. CARDIN: I thank my friend from Vermont for his raising this important issue, and appreciate the opportunity to join him today.

The relationship between the United States and the Philippines is tremendously important for both our nations and both of our people. Yet I fear that today, because of the way in which the new government of President Duterte is approaching this issue, we may find ourselves at something of a crossroads.

If the current trends continue we can expect that over 6,000 people will be dead as a result of extra-judicial killings in the Philippines by the end of this year. 6,000 people. This is not a situation in which there is occasional error or the over-zealous application of force. This is systematic, wide-spread, brutal, and beyond the bounds for a constitutional democracy.

And as my colleague from Vermont pointed out, these dead are not just drug dealers – although that would be troubling enough given the lack of due process – but also include addicts, who need help, as well as innocent by-standers.

I understand President Duterte’s desire to stop the devastation caused by illegal narcotics. I believe that most of my colleagues do. We too have seen what drug trafficking and addiction can do in our communities. We also have a long history of both successful and unsuccessful efforts to combat narcotics – but we have learned that there is a right way to approach this issue – with law enforcement, due process and rule of law, with treatment – and a wrong way. President Duterte, in advocating and endorsing what amounts to mass murder, has chosen the wrong way. Senator Leahy is absolutely right when he said that a lack of respect for rule of law and democratic governance breeds instability, distrust and sometimes violence.

Filipino police have attributed most of the killings to suspects who "resisted arrest and shot at police officers." Yet it's been impossible to assess police claims that the killings were all lawful, since President Duterte has rejected calls to investigate these deaths. He has instead declared the killings as proof of the "success" of his anti-drug campaign and, along with other more forceful and “colorful” statements which appear to endorse vigilante killings, urged police to “seize the momentum.” Human rights groups, the United Nations, the U.S. government, and a Philippine Senate panel have expressed concerns about the killings, which allegedly have been carried out without legal proceedings as provided for under Philippine law and international obligations.

As the distinguished gentleman from Vermont knows, I have been a strong supporter of Philippines law enforcement institutions, including recently introducing legislation which would increase law enforcement cooperation between our two countries.

But these recent reports of thousands of extra-judicial killings as well as detentions and a lack of respect for international human rights commitments are profoundly troubling. They undermine our mutual goals of upholding liberal democratic values in the region and to strengthening international law.

Indeed, as the Senator from Vermont knows, just this past week President Duterte said that he intends to reconstitute the constabulary, the most abusive para-police under the Marcos regime. For any historian of human rights abuses in the Philippines, this is a deeply troubling development.

I would ask my friend and colleague if he shares my concerns with the direction that the Philippines appears to be going, and the implications for the US-Filipino relationship?

Mr. LEAHY: Yes, like the Senator from Maryland I am deeply concerned with these events, and I believe that if the extra-judicial killings and state-sanctioned violence continue, and there is no accountability for the abuses that have been committed, there will need to be an appropriate response by the U.S. government.

Mr. CARDIN: Indeed, as we celebrate the 70th anniversary of diplomatic relations between our two countries we should underscore that our alliance is needed now more than ever. With a more assertive China in the maritime domain, a changing global economic landscape, and an increase of transnational challenges confronting the region the U.S.-Philippines alliance is critical to both our nations.

But this alliance is about more than just interests, narrowly construed. The relationship between our nations is more than an alliance. It is a genuine friendship. This is a deep relationship built on shared values, and a deep appreciation, both here and in the Philippines, of the importance of democracy, of rule of law, of due process, of the proper application of justice, and of constitutional order. It is because these extra-judicial killings shake the very foundation of that shared vision of shared values that I find these developments so deeply troubling.

So I would also ask my colleague his opinion, as the author of the Leahy Law, whether he thinks that the application of ordinary US policy and law, and the Leahy Law in particular, is sufficient to meet the challenges that we see in the Philippines? Given the nature of these extra-judicial killings, how would unit-level vetting apply? And if the United States is unable to use the normal tools available, what are the other options that we might need to consider?

Mr. LEAHY: I share the Senator’s views about the importance of the U.S.-Philippines alliance, and his concerns with the implications of President Duterte’s anti-drug policies for that alliance. I wrote the Leahy Law, which applies worldwide, to ensure that the U.S. is not complicit in human rights violations committed by forces that might receive U.S. assistance, and to encourage foreign governments to hold accountable perpetrators of such abuses. While there are ways we can find out which units were involved in these abuses, if President Duterte’s government is unwilling to work with us, including by refusing to investigate allegations of abuses, then we are faced with a broader issue that cannot be remedied simply by withholding assistance from specific units or individuals.

The Leahy Law should be used to encourage reform and accountability, but to address these systemic challenges it may be necessary to consider further conditions on assistance to the Duterte government to ensure that U.S. taxpayer funds are property spent and until that government demonstrates a commitment to the rule of law. I have asked the State Department to discuss this with us to help inform our deliberations on current assistance for the Philippines and on decisions we will make for appropriations in fiscal year 2017.

Mr. CARDIN: I thank my colleague for his thoughtful response. I too am greatly concerned that unless we are able to see a more constructive approach on these issues from the government of President Duterte – an approach that is just as serious about combatting the scourge of narcotics, but approaches the issue in a legal framework – that we may need to consider taking these steps. This is an important relationship. I have many Filipino-American citizens in Maryland, and I care deeply about strengthening the US-Philippines Alliance, especially given the challenges that the regional order faces from a rising China, but this issue is critical as well.

Mr. LEAHY: I thank my friend from Maryland for his leadership on the Foreign Relations Committee and for his interest in this issue. I look forward to working with him to respond to the challenges President Duterte’s policies pose to our relations with his government, as we seek to continue our strategic cooperation with the Philippines.

Mr. President, on a separate but related matter, we are seeing another missed opportunity to reform the criminal justice system in Indonesia. President Joko Widodo took office in 2014 amid the hopes of many that he would improve on the country’s history of human rights abuses. Instead, he reinstated the death penalty for drug trafficking, and the head of his government’s anti-narcotics agency recently expressed his approval of President Duterte’s approach to combating illicit drugs. To the contrary, it is a serious mistake, and I urge President Joko to reverse course and focus on improving his police force and judicial system.

Any government that uses capital punishment risks taking innocent life. But it is a particularly egregious practice in a country like Indonesia, where executions are peddled as effective justice despite a weak judicial system that is vulnerable to abuse, and to the detriment of its reform. Nor is torturing and burying those suspected of involvement in the drug trade effective law enforcement. It is an abuse of power, it prevents remedies to deeply flawed practices within the security forces, and it belies the legitimacy of the government.

We have a complex relationship with both Indonesia and the Philippines due to our own history in the region. However, we also share many interests. I have supported assistance for both countries, but I have also supported conditions on U.S. assistance related to progress on human rights, and reform of the judiciary, police, and armed forces. Unfortunately, I fear that the progress that has been made is now at risk of being eroded.

Often we are presented with the false choice of supporting human rights or national security. I see no such dichotomy here. Consider the impact of our complicity in these governments’ actions, both on our own legacy and on the efforts we are undertaking to help improve security and stability in the region. The Philippines and Indonesia cannot combat extremism or profess to govern legitimately by murdering innocent and nonviolent people, by creating a culture of lawlessness and impunity.

The United States is far from perfect. We have not done as well as we should in addressing the illicit drug problem in our own country. Many Americans need and want treatment, and cannot get it. But we should not support those who make a practice of using excessive force or the death penalty rather than protecting the rights of due process and fair trials.

I ask that two articles on this subject, both published in The New York Times last month, be printed in the Record.

# # # # #

The New York Times
Indonesia’s Push to Execute Drug Convicts Underlines Flaws in Justice System
AUG. 13, 2016

JAKARTA, Indonesia — Sixteen years ago, Zulfiqar Ali left his native Pakistan for Indonesia in search of a new life. Last month, that life was on the verge of ending in front of a firing squad.

Mr. Ali has been on Indonesia’s death row since 2005, after he was convicted of heroin trafficking. A government-ordered inquiry later found that he was probably innocent. Still, in July, he was one of 14 convicts, most of them foreigners, who were taken to the prison island of Nusakambangan off Java’s southern coast to be put to death.

Minutes before they were to be executed, on July 29, Mr. Ali and nine other convicts were given a reprieve, for reasons the government has yet to explain. But four were shot dead as scheduled, including a Nigerian who supporters say was framed. And Mr. Ali, like the rest who were spared, remains condemned.

More than a year after Indonesia drew international censure by putting to death 12 foreigners convicted of drug crimes, the country has resumed a war on narcotics by way of executions — and has again put a spotlight on its profoundly flawed justice system.

Critics in Indonesia and abroad say those flaws go so deep that the country should not employ the death penalty at all. Researchers have found that many condemned convicts were tortured by the police into confessing, did not receive access to lawyers or were otherwise denied fair trials.

The resumption of executions means “that the government has ignored that there is something seriously wrong with our judiciary and law enforcers,” said Robertus Robet, a lecturer and researcher at the State University of Jakarta’s sociology department. He characterized the government as “trigger-happy.”

“When you execute someone, you execute the possibility of finding out the truth,” he said.

Amnesty International has denounced “the manifestly flawed administration of justice in Indonesia that resulted in flagrant human rights violations.” Similar concerns have been raised by the United Nations and the European Union, which sent a delegation to try to persuade Indonesia to spare inmates who were condemned to die last year.

Indonesia has long had the death penalty, but its use was sporadic in the years before President Joko Widodo took office in October 2014. Declaring drug abuse a “national emergency,” Mr. Joko denied clemency appeals from 64 death row inmates who had been convicted of drug crimes, most of them foreigners, and the government set a goal of executing all of them by the end of 2015.

That did not happen, but five drug convicts were put to death in January of that year, and eight more in April. (An Indonesian was also executed for murder in January.) Among the convicts executed in April, seven of whom were foreigners, were Andrew Chan, 31, and Myuran Sukumaran, 34, Australians who were arrested in 2005 trying to smuggle heroin out of Bali, the resort island.

The men admitted their guilt, but their lawyers said the judge in the case was corrupt, having offered a lesser sentence in exchange for a bribe. Indonesia rejected appeals by the Australian government to spare them, and Australia withdrew its ambassador in protest.

Also executed in April was Rodrigo Gularte, 42, a Brazilian convicted of drug smuggling who had repeatedly been given a diagnosis of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Indonesian law forbids the execution of mentally ill convicts.

Dave McRae, a senior research fellow at the Asia Institute at the University of Melbourne in Australia who has researched the use of capital punishment in Indonesia, said that the deficiencies in the justice system here could be found in most countries that still used the death penalty.

“A lot of the objections to Indonesia’s use of the death penalty — inconsistent and arbitrary sentencing and application of the death penalty, allegations of corruption and wrongful convictions, questions over access to lawyers and interpreters and adequacy of representation — are questions that are raised all over the world,” he said.

Such concerns have been raised about the cases against some of the convicts spared last month — and some who were executed, including the Nigerian, Humphrey Jefferson Ejike Eleweke.

Mr. Eleweke was arrested in 2003 after the police found heroin at a restaurant he ran in Jakarta, the capital; he said an employee had planted it. His lawyers say that the police beat him until he confessed.

They also say that by law, an 11th-hour appeal for clemency issued to Mr. Joko should have automatically halted his execution. Last week, legal activists filed a complaint with a judicial watchdog against Indonesia’s attorney general, saying that Mr. Eleweke’s execution and those of two others should have been stopped because of those appeals, according to local news reports.

“We cannot have the death penalty here because of the judicial system — it’s problematic, it’s dysfunctional,” said Ricky Gunawan, director of the Community Legal Aid Institute, a nongovernmental organization that represented Mr. Eleweke.

Another allegation of corruption emerged just before the executions last month, when one of the men put to death, an Indonesian named Freddy Budiman, was quoted as saying that he had paid senior law enforcement officials more than $40 million to let his drug smuggling operation continue before he was arrested.

That accusation was included in a report released by a rights activist, Haris Azhar, who had interviewed Mr. Budiman in prison; shortly thereafter, the police, the military and Indonesia’s anti-narcotics board, all of which were implicated in the report, filed a criminal defamation complaint against Mr. Azhar. On Thursday, Mr. Joko ordered those agencies to investigate the corruption allegations.

The case of Mr. Ali, the Pakistani who was spared execution, has also raised concerns.

Mr. Ali, who immigrated to Indonesia in 2000, was accused of drug dealing in 2004 by a friend, Gurdip Singh, who had been caught with heroin; Mr. Singh later said the police had pressured him and offered a reduced sentence to name accomplices. Mr. Ali’s lawyers say their client was arrested without a warrant at his home, where no drugs were found, and signed a confession after being beaten so badly in custody that he needed two operations.

Though Mr. Ali retracted his confession and Mr. Singh withdrew his accusation, both men were sentenced to death in 2005. But the severity of Mr. Ali’s beating drew attention to the case, and the government ordered an unusual inquiry, which concluded that he was likely to be innocent.

The government never acted on those findings, and Mr. Ali and Mr. Singh were among those who nearly faced a firing squad.

“He was never involved in drugs,” Mr. Ali’s wife, Siti Rohani, who lives in West Java Province with their three children, said in an interview.

A spokesman for Mr. Joko, Johan Budi, denied that the judicial system was dysfunctional, saying the executions had followed legal procedures.

Mr. Ali, along with Mr. Singh and several of the other convicts who were given reprieves, is still in prison on Nusakambangan Island, where Indonesia conducts executions. Ms. Siti said she and her husband’s family in Pakistan were in a torturous state of limbo.

“We’re just confused because there is no certainty about my husband’s fate,” she said.

M. Rum, a spokesman for the attorney general’s office, declined to explain why Mr. Ali and the other convicts had been given reprieves, saying only that it was “for judicial and nonjudicial reasons.” But he said the executions would eventually be carried out.

A version of this article appears in print on August 14, 2016, on page A4 of the New York edition with the headline: Indonesia Deploys Firing Squads to Fight Drugs.

# # # # #

The New York Times
Body Count Rises as Philippine President Wages War on Drugs
AUG. 2, 2016

MANILA — Since Rodrigo Duterte became president of the Philippines just over a month ago, promising to get tough on crime by having the police and the military kill drug suspects, 420 people have been killed in the campaign, according to tallies of police reports by the local news media.

Most were killed in confrontations with the police, while 154 were killed by unidentified vigilantes. This has prompted 114,833 people to turn themselves in, as either drug addicts or dealers, since Mr. Duterte took office, according to national police logs.

Addressing Congress last week in his first State of the Nation address, Mr. Duterte reiterated his take-no-prisoners approach, ordering the police to “triple” their efforts against crime.

“We will not stop until the last drug lord, the last financier and the last pusher have surrendered or been put behind bars or below the ground, if they so wish,” he said.

But human rights groups, Roman Catholic activists and the families of many of those killed during the crackdown say that the vast majority were poor Filipinos, many of whom had nothing to do with the drug trade. They were not accorded an accusation and a trial, but were simply shot down in the streets, the critics say.

“These are not the wealthy and powerful drug lords who actually have meaningful control over supply of drugs on the streets in the Philippines,” said Phelim Kine, a deputy director of Human Rights Watch in Asia.

Critics of the president’s campaign have rallied around the case of Michael Siaron, a 29-year-old rickshaw driver in Manila, who was shot one night by unidentified gunmen as he pedaled his vehicle in search of a passenger. When his wife rushed to the scene, a photographer took a picture of her cradling his body in the street, and the photograph quickly gained wide attention.

Scribbled in block letters on a cardboard sign left near his body was the word “pusher.” His family members insist that he was not involved in the drug trade, though they said he sometimes used meth.

Indirectly acknowledging criticism that his policies trample over the standard judicial process, Mr. Duterte said that human rights “cannot be used as a shield to destroy the country.”

He has called for drug users and sellers to turn themselves in or risk being hunted down, a threat backed up by the bodies piling up near daily on the streets of Philippine cities.

The approach appears to be driving down crime: The police say that they have arrested more than 2,700 people on charges related to using or selling illegal drugs, and that crime nationwide has fallen 13 percent since the election, to 46,600 reported crimes in June, from 52,950 in May.

Mr. Duterte’s crackdown has been hugely popular. Filipinos, pummeled by years of violent crime and corrupt, ineffective law enforcement, handed him an overwhelming victory in the May presidential election, and have largely embraced his approach.

A national opinion poll conducted after his election and just before he took office found that 84 percent of Filipinos had “much trust” in him.

The model for Mr. Duterte’s policies is Davao City, where he was mayor for most of the past 20 years. Draconian laws there, including a strict curfew and a smoking ban as well as a zero-tolerance approach to drug users and sellers, have been credited with turning the city into an oasis of safety in a region plagued by violence.

The dark side of that approach was that more than 1,000 people were killed by government-sanctioned death squads during his administration, according to several independent investigations.

Mr. Duterte has denied having direct knowledge of death squads, but he has long called for addressing crime by killing suspects, whom he calls criminals and has referred to as “a legitimate target of assassination.”

He has repeatedly said that those hooked on meth, the most popular drug here, were beyond saving or rehabilitation.

He ran for president largely on the pledge of applying the same policies nationwide, promising to kill 100,000 criminals in his first six months in office. While the number may have been typical Duterte bravado, the threat of mass killing appears to have been real.

On Tuesday, the International Drug Policy Consortium, a network of nongovernmental organizations, issued a letter urging the United Nations drug control agencies “to demand an end to the atrocities currently taking place in the Philippines” and to state unequivocally that extrajudicial killings “do not constitute acceptable drug control measures.”

Ramon Casiple, a political analyst at the Institute for Political and Electoral Reform, said that he shared those concerns but that it was too early to decide whether Mr. Duterte’s approach is effective. “Let’s give him his 100 days,” Mr. Casiple said.

Mr. Duterte has recently raised his sights beyond street-level users and dealers, accusing five police generals of protecting drug lords, though he presented no specific evidence.

He also publicly accused a mayor, the mayor’s son and a prominent businessman of drug trafficking, threatening their lives if they did not surrender.

But the people killed on the street tend to be more like Mr. Siaron, the rickshaw driver.

Mr. Siaron lived with his wife in a shack above a garbage-strewn creek. Having never finished high school, he survived on odd jobs like house painting and working in fast-food restaurants.

Lately he had been pedaling a rickshaw, earning about $2 a day ferrying passengers through the warren of alleyways in a run-down part of metropolitan Manila.

On the night he died, he had stopped by his father’s fruit stand to ask for an apple.

Then he told his father he would seek one more fare before heading home. As he rode off, gunmen on motorcycles sped by, pumping several bullets into him.

What happened next turned him into a national symbol of the human toll of Mr. Duterte’s war.

When she heard he had been shot, Mr. Siaron’s wife, Jennilyn Olayres, ran into the street, burst through police lines and collapsed next to him on the asphalt. The photographer snapped the picture: a distraught woman cradling her lifeless husband under a streetlight, a Pietà of the Manila slums.

The police have not commented publicly about the case and have not accused Mr. Siaron of selling drugs.

“My husband was a simple man,” Ms. Olayres said at his wake several days later. “He may have used drugs, but he was not violent and never bothered anyone. His only concern was looking for passengers so we can eat three meals a day.”

During his speech to Congress, Mr. Duterte dismissed the photo, which had appeared on the front page of The Philippine Daily Inquirer the previous day under the banner headline “Thou shall not kill.”

“There you are sprawled on the ground, and you are portrayed in a broadsheet like Mother Mary cradling the dead cadaver of Jesus Christ,” he said. “That’s just drama.”

But if the antidrug campaign has targeted people on the margins of society, Mr. Siaron is an apt symbol.

“We’re small people, insignificant,” Ms. Olayres said through sobs as she stood next to her husband’s coffin. “We may be invisible to you, but we are real. Please stop the killings.”

A version of this article appears in print on August 3, 2016, on page A4 of the New York edition with the headline: Body Count Is Rising as Philippines Wages War on Drugs.

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