How U.S. money is backing the Philippines’ bloody war on drugs

BuzzFeed reports: [President Rodrigo] Duterte is perhaps the most brutal leader to sweep to power in this year’s global populist wave, and his bloody campaign against drug users and dealers remains overwhelmingly popular in his country, even as the US and other Western governments have criticized its violence. He won election in a landslide earlier this year after vowing to kill 100,000 criminals and feed their bodies to fish in Manila Bay.

On the surface, the relationship between Duterte and the Obama administration has been strained, though the Philippines remains one of the largest recipients of US aid, including for its much criticized police force. The US president scrapped a meeting with Duterte this fall after Duterte called him a “son of a whore,” and the State Department has expressed worry about reports of extrajudicial killings.

“We’re very concerned — deeply concerned, I would say — about reports of extrajudicial killings of individuals suspected to have been involved in drug activity in the Philippines,” a US State Department spokesman said in August.

But a BuzzFeed News investigation has found that despite those statements of concern, the US continued to train and provide equipment to police units on the front lines of the anti-drug campaign. The State Department sent millions of dollars in aid to programs for police departments across the country even as the death toll from the drug campaign climbed by hundreds each month, according to government documents as well as current and former US and Philippine officials. Critics say this raises questions as to whether the State Department violated a US law that forbids aid dollars from benefiting police units engaged in gross human rights violations like extrajudicial killings. [Continue reading…]

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