US Congress’ HR co-chairs urge Trump to raise concern over EJKs with Duterte

WASHINGTON – The co-chairs of the US Congress’ human rights body have made public a letter to President Donald J. Trump urging him to bring up the issue of human rights during his upcoming meeting with Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte.

Congressmen Randy Hultgren and James P. McGovern, co-chairs of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission urged Trump to express the US’ “profound concern” over reported extrajudicial killings associated with the Philippine government’s “war on drugs.”

The letter notes that a Commission hearing earlier this year included strong evidence that police have killed 7,000 alleged drug dealers and users without charges or trial since the Philippine government launched its campaign against illicit drugs.

The Co-Chairs request that just as Trump will reaffirm to Duterte the United States’ unwavering commitment to the Philippines, he should also reaffirm the United States’ commitments to fundamental human rights, including due process and the rule of law.

A Filipino American human rights advocacy group gladly welcomed the co-chair’s letter to Trump.

In a statement of support, the Filipino American Human Rights Alliance (FAHRA–USA) “deeply appreciates and commends the Lantos Human Rights Commission letter to President Donald Trump, on his four-day visit to the Philippines. Their letter of concern highlights the terrible state of impunity, violations of human rights and rampant extra-judicial killings that reached 14,923 as of this date.”

FAHRA reiterates that it believes that the United States must remain a champion of human rights, due process and the rule of law. The group states that it “believes the Lantos Commission letter upholds the basic principles of the United Nations Declaration for Human Rights and the United States adherence to democratic principles. If Trump will continue to go against these universal principles and will support a budding dictator like PRRD, it is going against these time-honored traditions.”

It is the obligation of the United States, the group states, to advocate for and defend those human rights as set forth in the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The group also seconds the Lantos Commission statement recognizing the strategic importance of maintaining United States’ strong partnership with the Philippines, especially amid rising tensions in the region over North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs and Chinese territorial sovereignty issues involving the South China Sea.

The co-chairmen of the Lantos Human Rights Commission cited the Country Report on Human Rights Practices for 2016 by the Department of State indicating that there has been a significant increase in the number of extrajudicial killings in the Philippines and that the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights referred to the recent increase as an “appalling epidemic.”