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BY REUTER's PETER APPS: THE TERRIFYING LESSONS OF DUTERTE, THE PHILIPPINES' "VIGILANTE PRESIDENT"
(What the Philippines reminds us, though, is just how short a journey it might be to really tear up some of the most basic rules which had been seen as underpinning a civilized society. Worse still, it can even be popular.REUTERS)
DECEMBER 2, 2016 - Every morning in the Philippines, a handful of bodies are found littering the streets. Their faces are often covered in black plastic tape. Sometimes there are signs of torture. Usually, they have been shot in the head. Few bother police—they are usually suspected of being responsible. No one, frankly, should be surprised that it is happening. The country's democratically elected leader, after all, was elected promising to do just this, cracking down on what he has described as a "drug menace" in the country. If one world leader exemplifies some of the more alarming trends taking place in politics this decade, it is Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte. His election—and the policies he has pursued since entering office—represent a comprehensive rejection of decades, if not centuries, of hard-won moves toward respect for human rights and the rule of law. READ MORE...
ALSO LOOK: Faith burns deep as devotees queue for Nazarene ‘Pahalik’ custom
JANUARY 9 -Faith burns intense among devotees as they count the hours down to the culmination of their annual Panata (vow) to join the January 9 feast of the Black Nazarene, highlighted by the grand procession of the Nazarene statue back to Quiapo Church. READ MORE, MORE POHTOS...
ALSO: Putin foe McCain could emerge as bulwark against Trump
JANUARY 9 -McCain: At 80, John McCain has begun his sixth term in the US Senate by proving to be a thorn in Donald Trump's side even before the president-elect takes the oath of office. The maverick lawmaker is a longtime national security hawk, and he has positioned himself as less an adversary of Trump than an enemy of President Vladimir Putin. But that posture has put him at odds with the incoming administration and Trump's coziness with the Kremlin, as McCain blasts Putin as "a thug and a murderer" and calls for stricter sanctions on Moscow. Trump, who takes power on January 20, has repeatedly cast doubt on Russia's role in cyber attacks against the United States which intelligence chiefs say was conducted in order to help Trump win the election. McCain by contrast minces no words, calling Russia's alleged hacking "an act of war." READ MORE...
Published December 2, 2016 11:35am By PETER APPS, Reuters - Every morning in the Philippines, a handful of bodies are found littering the streets. Their faces are often covered in black plastic tape. Sometimes there are signs of torture. Usually, they have been shot in the head. Few bother police—they are usually suspected of being responsible.
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COMMENTARY The terrifying lessons of Duterte, the Philippines’ ‘vigilante president’
MANILA, JANUARY 16, 2017 (GMA NEWS)
No one, frankly, should be surprised that it is happening. The country's democratically elected leader, after all, was elected promising to do just this, cracking down on what he has described as a "drug menace" in the country.
If one world leader exemplifies some of the more alarming trends taking place in politics this decade, it is Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte. His election—and the policies he has pursued since entering office—represent a comprehensive rejection of decades, if not centuries, of hard-won moves toward respect for human rights and the rule of law.
Such legal niceties, Duterte and those around him argue, have simply given criminals and others too much space.
It's the sort of sentiment that has sometimes also found its place in Donald Trump's campaign—the US president-elect talked, after all, of getting "really nasty" against Islamic State. In the Philippines, however, the death toll is already believed to have run to more than 5000. Of these, 2000 were shot in armed confrontations with the police—with 3000 more suffering extrajudicial executions.
"The number [of drug addicts] is quite staggering and scary," Duterte said in his inaugural State of the Nation Address. "I have to slaughter these idiots for destroying my country."
The Filipino leader has been in power barely six months. He has another five and a half years until he next faces the poll.
VIGILANTE JUSTICE APPEAL
That his rhetoric can gain traction among voters should not itself be a surprise—the idea of vigilante justice clearly still has an appeal, if only evidenced by the way in which it remains such a common Hollywood theme. As mayor of Davao City for more than two decades, the Filipino president reveled in such imagery—he was often referred to as "The Punisher" or "Duderte Harry", the latter a reference to the cinematic vigilante "Dirty Harry" played by Clint Eastwood.
As mayor, Duterte was repeatedly accused of involvement in death squads targeting both criminals and political enemies. Earlier this year, a man claiming to be a former associate accused the president of taking part in some killings and ordering others, including having a man fed to a crocodile in 2007.
Nothing was ever proven, however—and in those days, Duterte denied direct involvement. An official inquiry published at the beginning of this year—and, unsurprisingly, heavily criticized—said it found no evidence of the reported death squad killings or Duterte's own direct involvement.
Since Duterte took the presidency in June, however, he has been much more outspoken—as well as willing to take responsibility for what some estimate could be several thousand deaths.
This week, he openly threatened to target human rights activists whom he accused of getting in the way of the purge.
COST US ALLIANCE
Such tactics appear to have cost the Philippines its long-running alliance with the United States—at least under the presidency of Barack Obama. (The Filipino leader has said he hopes to have a rather better relationship with Trump.) Duterte has talked openly of seeking alliances with Russia and China instead; both countries are seen as more likely to let the Philippines do whatever it wishes when it comes to internal matters.
Duterte is clearly an outlier. For now, however, his approach is serving him relatively well when it comes to Filipino domestic politics—according to one survey, he remains one of the most trusted leaders in Southeast Asia.
But he is also part of a wider trend—one that may well be accelerating. There have always, of course, been leaders who have made a virtue of "doing what it takes" to restore order and have been relatively happy to get a reputation for sometimes brutal tactics, even if they publicly deny them.
Rwandan President Paul Kagame, for example, has always said his country needs to sometimes take a tough line with those who try to destabilize it if Rwanda is to avoid a repeat of the 1994 genocide. Sri Lanka's then-leaders used sometimes brutal measures to end the civil war with Tamil Tiger rebels in 2009.
After the chaos of the 1990s, Russian President Vladimir Putin has ruthlessly traded off his reputation for toughness, particularly in the long-running insurgency in Chechnya, where Moscow's forces have long been accused of unrestricted use of force and widespread rights abuses.
Most of those leaders, however, have always sought to deny outright responsibility—or at least maintain a degree of deniability—when it comes to unquestioned acts of extrajudicial murder. By being willing to make it so explicitly a tool of government policy, Duterte has significantly moved the goalposts of what might be deemed to be acceptable in international affairs.
Where he has been criticized, he has been outspoken in his response, even threatening to leave the United Nations and join a new group—perhaps Russian and Chinese-backed—that would also include African governments keen to push back on some international human rights demands. Earlier this year, South Africa and Burundi both announced they would quit the International Criminal Court, set up in response to the genocides of the 1990s, but which critics say has been selective in which conflicts it chooses to investigate.
These trends are also, in some respects at least, clearly evident in the West. Trump talked openly of waterboarding and targeting the families of suspected militants during his campaign, although it remains uncertain whether he will pursue such policies in office. Far right European political parties and columnists have periodically called for a much tougher approach to migration, suggesting this might sometimes include the use of live ammunition to maintain potentially overwhelmed borders.
What this represents is an unraveling of the rules-based system—and in many respects the essential concept of basic human rights—enshrined in the United Nations charter signed by most progressive nations after World War Two.
That commitment was always imperfect—and frequently desperately hypocritically imposed. Still, it has rarely been as pushed back against as it is in the Philippines today.
Next year may well see the forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad reassert control in Syria and the unraveling of the unsuccessful US-backed policy of supporting ineffectual opposition fighters.
The United States and Europe will likely see a considerable political reaction against what had been seen as relatively fundamental rights, particularly when it comes to asylum and freedom of movement.
None of those things are unnecessarily unreasonable. What the Philippines reminds us, though, is just how short a journey it might be to really tear up some of the most basic rules which had been seen as underpinning a civilized society. Worse still, it can even be popular. —Reuters
Peter Apps is a Reuters global affairs columnist writing on international affairs, globalization, conflict and other issues. He is founder and executive director of the Project for Study of the 21st Century; PS21, a non-national, non-partisan, non-ideological think tank in London, New York and Washington. Before that, he spent 12 years as a reporter for Reuters. Since 2016, he has been a member of the British Army Reserve and the UK Labour Party.
Rodrigo Duterte Quotes 2016: Philippine President's Most Controversial QuotesBY SUMAN VARANDANI @SUMAN09 ON 10/26/16 AT 8:21 AM
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has found himself under scrutiny for his controversial remarks on several occasions. On Tuesday, he reignited his war of words with the United States, saying: "Do not make us your dogs."
Duterte has often been likened to Donald Trump for his contentious statements. Giving a speech at the airport in Manila just before he departed for an official visit to Japan, Duterte said, referring to comments about his human rights record made by U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg:
"You know I didn't start this fight. They started it...They started it, then came out the issue of human rights, the State Department, Obama, EU. They did this to me. Then they said, we will cut our assistance. So I said to them, 'son of a bitch, do not make us your dogs, as if I am a dog with a leash, and you throw some bread, where I can't reach. The ambassador said something not very nice. You are not supposed to do that because in an election of another country, you should be careful with your mouth."
Here are some top controversial comments made by Duterte:
•"Hitler massacred three million Jews. Now, there is three million drug addicts. I’d be happy to slaughter them."
•"Son of a whore. I will curse you in the forum." - Duterte said about U.S. President Barack Obama.
•"Please don’t order me around. … Or would you rather that I declare martial law?" - Duterte warned Maria Lourdes Sereno, the chief justice of the Supreme Court of the Philippines.
•"I was angry because she was raped. That’s one thing. But she was so beautiful. The mayor should have been first." - Duterte said in April about the rape and murder of an Australian missionary by inmates during a prison riot in Davao.
•"We were affected by the traffic. It took us five hours. I asked why, they said it was closed. I asked who is coming. They answered, the pope. I wanted to call him: ‘Pope, son of a whore, go home. Do not visit us again.'"
•"I was separated from my wife. I’m not impotent. What am I supposed to do? Let this hang forever? When I take Viagra, it stands up," the president said, bragging about his reputation as a womanizer.
•"Instead of helping us, the first to hit was the State Department. So you can go to hell, Mr. Obama, you can go to hell."
•"He is a bigot and I am not." - Duterte said when asked to comment about him being compared to Donald Trump.
LOOK: Faith burns deep as devotees queue for Nazarene ‘Pahalik’ customPublished January 8, 2017 2:30pm Photos by Danny Pata
Faith burns intense among devotees as they count the hours down to the culmination of their annual Panata (vow) to join the January 9 feast of the Black Nazarene, highlighted by the grand procession of the Nazarene statue back to Quiapo Church.
Devotees patiently wait in long lines for their turn to touch and kiss the Cross or the face of the Black Nazarene (statue of the suffering Christ) during the "Pahalik" ritual on the eve of the grand procession.
Oblivious of scorching Sun and changing weather conditions, devotees every year keep their Panata in fervent prayer and exultant jubilation.
This Sunday, devotees formed long lines, covering a stretch of Roxas Boulevard near the Quirino Grandstand, for the Pahilik ritual.
Earlier, at the Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene in Quiapo, a deacon blessed the devotees with their Black Nazarene replicas after a morning Mass.
—LBG, GMA News
AGENCIE DE FRANCE
Putin foe McCain could emerge as bulwark against TrumpPublished January 7, 2017 3:08pm By MICHAEL MATHES, AFP
JANUARY 9 -McCain:
At 80, John McCain has begun his sixth term in the US Senate by proving to be a thorn in Donald Trump's side even before the president-elect takes the oath of office.
The maverick lawmaker is a longtime national security hawk, and he has positioned himself as less an adversary of Trump than an enemy of President Vladimir Putin.
But that posture has put him at odds with the incoming administration and Trump's coziness with the Kremlin, as McCain blasts Putin as "a thug and a murderer" and calls for stricter sanctions on Moscow.
Trump, who takes power on January 20, has repeatedly cast doubt on Russia's role in cyber attacks against the United States which intelligence chiefs say was conducted in order to help Trump win the election.
McCain by contrast minces no words, calling Russia's alleged hacking "an act of war."
During the bitter 2016 presidential race, McCain was criticized by some Republican voters for refusing to formally support the Republican nominee.
In Washington he offers a national security reality check to Trump, who is often accused of being in denial about Russia.
On Thursday McCain presided over a closely watched Armed Services Committee hearing in which senators grilled intelligence chiefs about Russia's role in hacking the Democratic National Committee.
Several of McCain's staunch political adversaries in Congress now look to him as a bulwark against Trump's perceived naivete about Russia.
"John's in a strong position," number two Senate Democrat Dick Durbin told AFP.
"Many of the statements that have been made during the course of the transition do not reflect the reality of America's national security, and I think John has brought that point home when it comes to our relations with Russia and the value of our intelligence agencies."
Republican Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Bob Corker hailed him as "an important voice."
The political novice and the warrior-senator are polar opposites.
Trump, a billionaire businessman, never served in the military, and has struck a condescending tone when discussing America's generals or Gold Star families.
McCain is a US Navy veteran, a pilot who was shot down over North Vietnam in 1967, beaten by an angry mob and bayoneted.
He spent five and a half years as a prisoner of war, and his treatment was so brutal he still can not raise his arms high enough to comb his hair.
And yet Trump belittled McCain's experience when he was asked in 2015 whether he considered him a hero.
"I like people who were not captured," Trump said.
The disdain appears to be mutual. McCain bristles when asked about the incoming president.
"I do not want to be rude to anyone, but I do not want to be asked about Donald Trump," he snapped at reporters outside the Senate chamber.
Instead, he focuses on ways to combat Russian aggression. He has poked the bear on several occasions, including 2014, when he described the former communist power as "a gas station masquerading as a country."
He frequently visits Ukraine, including in 2013 when he joined protesters in Kiev's Maidan Square, and as recently as last month on a congressional delegation.
When Washington sanctioned Russia for its intervention in the Crimea, Moscow replied by publishing its own list of sanctioned US officials, including McCain.
Now he wants to tighten the screws, working with other lawmakers to introduce new sanctions on Russia for its role in hacking US democratic institutions.
Elected in the House of Representatives in 1982 and serving since 1987 in the Senate, McCain commands respect from colleagues, although they do not always approve of his independent streak.
He opposed isolationists in his party in 2013 when he worked with President Barack Obama in the hopes of launching military strikes against the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad.
At the time in an interview with AFP, he scoffed at suggestions he underwent a metamorphosis from cynical lawmaker fighting Obama at every turn to a remade Washington power player.
McCain's rejection of that narrative "probably won't change the convenient storyline that the 'angry, bitter old man' that used to be the maverick is now back again," he said.
"But I think it's bullshit."
His national security battles are putting him in the spotlight once again.
With Trump seeking detente with Washington's Cold War foe, time will tell whether Republican leaders in Congress fall in line, or embrace McCain's confrontational strategy. —Agence France-Presse
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