International politics can, at times, seem like a lot of song and dance between politicians and government officials alike. What some critics may consider war crimes, world leaders may dismiss in order to focus on the ‘bigger picture’. The game of international relations plays out as leaders continuously weigh choice after choice of where to draw the line between human rights abuse and legitimate war efforts.
In the case of Rodrigo Duterte, the Philippine President, he couldn’t have been much more up front about it. Before the Association of Southeast Nations summit, which President Obama attended, President Duterte was asked by reporters about his recent war on drugs and the United Nations’ reaction. Addressing President Obama, he angrily stated that he has no master except his people, answers to nobody and that if he is asked about the highly controversial acts committed last summer, “putang ina, I will swear at you in that forum.” ‘Putang ina’ is the Tagalog phrase for ‘son of a bitch’.
The Philippine President’s war on drugs is one of the most outrageous criminal crackdowns conducted today. Since July, over 2500 people have been killed in the Philippine war on drugs. Duterte has suggested civilians should kill drug dealers and even drug addicts. “Getting their parents to do it would be too painful” he stated after his inaugural address. Over a thousand bodies, often with a sign reading “I’m a drug pusher, don’t be like me” have been discovered by police in cities. Vigilantes, death squads and police operations often ignore human rights and judicial process for the sake of a drug-free state.
One of the ever-increasing qualities of the world today is dialogue between nations. It helps not only to bolster deals and keep real inter-state wars from occurring, but can help defend citizens from totalitarian regimes. Groups like the United Nations and human rights organizations are constantly calling attention to human rights abuses around the world.
So when a summit is going to be held between nations, it makes very little sense for one leader to argue, ‘don’t bring this up with me.’ If world leaders only discuss what they want discussed with one another, everything will check out, they’ll pat each other on the back and go home. But a connected world should hold itself relatively accountable for other nations’ citizens. President Obama has come out against President Duterte’s war, explaining, “the consequences of when you do it the wrong way are innocent people get hurt and you have a bunch of unintended consequences that don’t solve the problem.” Only with everything open for discussion in the international field can we move toward a more transparent world.