For three days (April 30, May 1 and 2) I was watching the news on CNN. And I was squirming in shame every time the picture of President Duterte is shown on the screen.
President Trump’s invitation to the bombastic Philippine president to visit the White House triggered a spate of stinging criticisms against Duterte in connection with the extra-judicial killings (EJKs) and other human rights abuses that came as a consequence of his war on illegal drugs.
Some U.S. officials also criticized Trump, saying his invitation to Duterte to visit the White House could be interpreted as a stamp of approval for the brutal, merciless way the Philippine president is waging his campaign against illegal drugs.
CNN broadcasters and commentators called Duterte as a self-confessed killer, recalling his statement that he himself killed some drug pushers when he was mayor of Davao City. They also remembered he had called former President Barack Obama a “son of a whore.”
As a Filipino by heart and mind, I felt ashamed when I realized that the president of the Republic of the Philippines is a murderer and that a man like him deserves no respect at all in a decent society, a society that highly values human life and respect for the rule of law.
The negative comments against Duterte mean that American society does not condone killing of people without due process. The remarks also mean that murderers – even if they are heads of nations or ordinary persons – are unfit to be official guests of the United States, and they do not deserve the honor of setting foot in the White House, which is a bulwark of American values.
Deep introspections compel me to compare Filipino values with that of American values. The fact that the Filipinos had elected a president who is notorious not only for cursing people but also for his merciless attitude towards crime suspects is indicative of the kind of values we, Filipinos, adhere to.
We cannot help but agree with the observation that human life in the Philippines is worthless, and killing people is just like killing chickens. News reports from Manila give credence to this assertion: People are killed on a daily basis – in accidents, gun shootings, drowning, fires, rebel and terrorist attacks, starvation, etc.
And Duterte’s war on drugs has turned the situation from bad to worst. Since he launched his crusade against the drug menace in June last year, some 7,000 people who were supposedly linked to the illegal drug trade had been killed.
Every day, front pages of Manila tabloids show photos of slain drug suspects dumped on the roadside or at dark street corners. CCTV videos also show gunmen riding in tandem and wearing helmets or hoods shooting persons on the street in broad daylight.
TV footages show relatives of the victims crying for justice beside the coffin of their slain loved ones.
Here in the U.S. people are also killed for one reason or another, but extra-judicial killings seldom occur because there is strict adherence to the rule of law. And no one is above the law.
Some states impose the death penalty for heinous crimes, but the worst criminals are executed only after due process is fully complied with. And I have yet to read a news report that a high government official tolerates or approves extra-judicial killings even if the criminals are recidivists.
All these show the stark difference between how Filipinos and Americans regard human life. This difference is also reflected in the statements and actions by the top officials of both countries.
President Duterte once mentioned the killing of three million Jews in the Holocaust when he was describing the wide extent of the drug menace in the Philippines, saying there are three million people linked to drugs as peddlers or addicts. He insinuated that he wants all the three million people linked to drugs eliminated.
President Trump, on the other hand, has shown a very different attitude towards human life. This was indicated by his order to bomb an airport in Syria after he watched on TV horrifying videos of little babies convulsing and breathing their last breath after the chemical attack in a province in that troubled country.
The U.S. government, particularly the White House, traditionally bestows honor on visiting heads of states. The negative comments against him indicate that Duterte is not welcome in the US and does not deserve the honor of being an official guest.
His tattered reputation is one of the collateral damages of his own war on drugs. And because of this, he will go down in history as the only Philippine president who is denied the honor of visiting the White House.