MANILA – An international organization is criticizing Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop for her scheduled meeting with Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte in the latter’s stronghold, Davao City.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) Australia Director Elaine Pearson criticized Bishop’s impending meeting with Duterte in his hometown, saying this could be used to legitimize the tough-talking Filipino leader’s controversial policies, such as the war on drugs and reimposition of death penalty.
“Why is Australia’s foreign minister so eager to meet with Duterte that she’s willing to boost his global and domestic credibility by having photo ops in his hometown, the birthplace of the death squads?” said Pearson in an opinion piece written for The Guardian.
"Bishop needs to be careful not to allow her visit to provide legitimacy to Duterte’s policies. Duterte is sure to use the visit to show international acceptance of his 'war on drugs' and boost flagging support for the killing campaign at home."
Pearson said Bishop should have instead scheduled “a more formal, less cozy” meeting with Duterte in Manila.
She added, Bishop during her visit must “take a strong, public stance not only against the killings, but of the need to investigate those responsible.”
“She should announce that Australia will suspend all police assistance and training programs until the government ends its abusive war on drugs and allows an international investigation into the unlawful killings, given the government’s failure to conduct its own,” Pearson added.
Pearson also suggested that Bishop pay a visit to the Filipino leader’s nemesis, detained Senator Leila de Lima.
“At all costs, Bishop should think long and hard before smiling for selfies with someone who could eventually be indicted by the International Criminal Court,” Pearson said.
“Instead, she should take a strong stand for protecting the human rights of all Filipinos. Otherwise, it will look like Australia’s foreign minister just made a pilgrimage to the home of a self-confessed killer.”