PHILIPPINES President Rodrigo Duterte has turned down a request to meet United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, fueling talk that the fiery Filipino leader was deliberately snubbing the organization due to its criticism of his government’s war on drugs.
UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric was quoted in the Straits Times (via AFP) as saying that contacts had attempted to arrange a meeting but could not agree on a time during the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) meeting.
An official from Manila maintained, however, that Duterte was not snubbing Ban but had to decline the meeting request due to his packed schedule.
Philippine Foreign affairs spokesman Charles Jose said 11 heads of state had requested meetings with Duterte during the Asean meeting and the Philippine president has already agreed to nine.
“Please understand that he cannot accept them all and no one should impute any negatives on those he could not accommodate,” Jose said.
Ernesto Abella, who is Duterte’s spokesman, said “a number of possible meetups have to be presently foregone” as the meeting in Vientiane between Sept 6 and 8 was “extraordinarily full”.
After declaring a war on drugs and urging the public to kill drug criminals, at least 2,000 people have been reportedly killed over their suspected involvement in the narcotics trade.
Recent criticism of the Philippines’ drug war by representatives of the United Nations have evoked furious responses from Duterte, who threatened to pull his country out of the organization.
The president has also accused the intergovernmental organization of hypocrisy as it kept mum on mass killings in other countries.
Meanwhile, Sanho Tree, a Drug expert from the Institute of Policy Studies (IPS) has dubbed the killing’s under Duterte’s administration a “Trumpian tantrum” that would create more problems rather than solving the issue.
Alluding to U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump’s hardline stance of dealing with crime, Tree said: “The lawlessness that has erupted over this is opening up political space for any kind of killing now.”
In an interview with CCTV, Tree said people could be using the crackdown as an excuse to settle grievances, or rival drug gangs could use it to take out their competition and expand their turf.
“Put a sign around a corpse’s neck and label it drug pusher, that’s all you’d have to do,” Tree said.
Tree pointed out Thailand used a similar hardline approach in 2003 which eventually failed and now the kingdom is looking into decriminalizing methamphetamines.
“Only by reducing criminal sanctions can you create a space for a public health approach,” Tree said. “People who are driven underground cannot get help.”