China backs Philippines’ anti-narcotics campaign

Nearly 2,300 people have died in the war on drugs

Image Credit: Reuters
Josephina Mejos talks to a forensic expert investigating the scene after her husband Paquito Mejos was killed in a police operation in Manila, Philippines.
Gulf News

BEIJING: China backs Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s anti-narcotics campaign and will cooperate with the Southeast Asian country in the war against drugs, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said on Friday.

Duterte won the presidential election by a huge margin in May after campaigning almost entirely on promises to wipe out drugs and crime.

Nearly 2,300 people have died in the war on drugs since the campaign started on June 30, according to police, of which 1,566 were drug suspects killed in police operations.

Western countries have expressed concern at extrajudicial killings, concerns strongly rebuffed by Duterte.

China has also offered support.

“We understand and support the Philippine government’s policy under President Duterte of prioritising the fight against drug crime,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told a daily news briefing.

Duterte visits China next week, where he will meet Chinese President Xi Jinping.

“As I understand it, during President Duterte’s visit to China, he will participate in relevant anti-drugs related activities. At present, both countries are in close communication about this,” Geng said.

“Both countries’ anti-narcotics departments have already begun to explore cooperation. I believe that the results will be seen very soon.” He did not elaborate.

Under Duterte, Manila’s relations with traditional ally Washington have come under strain.

He has opted to put aside years of hostility with China, especially over the disputed South China Sea, to form a new partnership.

On Friday, Foreign Ministry spokesman Charles Jose confirmed that Duterte was tentatively due to visit China’s anti-drugs agency during his trip and get an idea of how China was tackling its own narcotics problems.

“It’s not final yet but I think the purpose is to, for the president to see for himself,” Jose told a regular briefing, adding that China was supporting the Philippines in terms of rehabilitation programmes and law enforcement.

Meanwhile, The International Criminal Court may have the jurisdiction to prosecute perpetrators of thousands of alleged extrajudicial killings in the Philippines’ crackdown on drugs, a prosecutor at the Hague-based tribunal said.

“I am deeply concerned about these alleged killings and the fact that public statements of high officials of the republic of the Philippines seem to condone such killings,” ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said in a statement.

The Philippines joined the ICC in November 2011 and extrajudicial killings could be prosecuted by the ICC if they are “committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack against a civilian population”, she said.