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Duterte's War on Drugs; Human Rights Watch on the World's Abuses; Imagine a World. Aired 2-2:30a ET

Aired February 27, 2017 - 14:00:00   ET




CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST (voice-over): Tonight, in the Philippines, over 7,000 people killed in eight months since President Duterte declared

his controversial war on drugs.

The foreign secretary has been defending his nation's record before the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva and he joins me live from there.

Also ahead, the executive director of Human Rights Watch on Duterte's drug war and much, much more.

And beyond the Oscar envelope hoopla, why two big winners of the night were absent from the ceremony.


AMANPOUR: Good evening, everyone, and welcome to the program. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London.

The strongman is alive as well as important countries across the world turn to authoritarian leaders, who make big promises often on law and order,

often entailing dramatic crackdowns to fulfill those promises, like Donald Trump on immigration or the Philippines in its war on drugs.

When President Rodrigo Duterte was elected in June, he launched a brutal crackdown. At one point he even said he would be, quote, "happy to

slaughter millions of Filipino drug users and dealers" -- he later apologized for that.

So far, more than 7,000 people have been killed which has sent Duterte's polls soaring but it's also caused great controversy at home and especially


Indeed, late last month, the president ordered a, quote, "pause" in his drug war after the murder of a South Korean businessman, allegedly by

corrupt police officials.

Duterte also has harsh words for the local Islamist militant group Abu Sayyaf, who today beheaded a German hostage, Jurgen Kantner (ph), according

to the Philippine government.

As the number of bodies pile up and Duterte's key critic, Senator Leila de Lima (ph) was arrested this weekend, the Philippines' foreign secretary,

Perfecto Yasay Jr., joins me from Geneva, where he's defending his country's drug war before the U.N. Human Rights Council.


AMANPOUR: Mr. Yasay, welcome to the program and thank you for joining us tonight.

PERFECTO YASAY JR., FOREIGN SECRETARY, THE PHILIPPINES: Thank you also for this opportunity, Christiane.

AMANPOUR: So let me first ask you about the breaking news today from your country, news that Abu Sayyaf, which apparently has links to ISIS, has in

fact beheaded a German hostage who's been held for many, many months and the government has said it will not change its no ransom policy.

Give me your reaction to what happened.

YASAY: Well, I got a report from our official in the Philippines responsible for this thing in terms of Secretary (INAUDIBLE) particularly.

And he informed us that, yes, they had received a videotape of the killing of the German hostage.

And on that basis made a confirmation of what had happened. We have not yet as update found the body and so we cannot give a definite confirmation

about his killing.

In any event, it is a very tragic incident and we extend our condolences to the German government for this. We continue to make sure that we would be

able to stem these terroristic activities of Abu Sayyaf.

In fact, our military is poised to come up with massive campaign to eliminate and destroy them. However, we're also concerned about the other

hostages that they have held and we would like to give paramount importance to the safety of these hostages --


YASAY: So we will stick to very firmly against our --

AMANPOUR: Sorry, go ahead.

YASAY: We stick firmly against our no ransom policy.

AMANPOUR: Well, let me just sort of segue from there into your very harsh and determined, as you would put it, war on drugs in the Philippines

itself. President Duterte today said that he's required the Philippine national police to go out in search of, quote, "people with patriotic

fervor" to get them to join in this war on drugs.

You know, are you not a little bit concerned that patriotic fervor may not be the best qualification for professional law enforcement?

Do you worry that that particular qualification may lead to vigilantism and all sorts of extrajudicial happenings in your country?


YASAY: I don't think so, Christiane. Our people are very much concerned about the (INAUDIBLE) drug menacing in the Philippines, that that's really

grown to endemic proportions and they have indicated their support to the president in this fight against illegal drugs.

So the call of the president to help us stem this scourge that has really destroyed our families and wreak havoc in our communities is a very

important call. And that's not necessarily mean or even -- I'm sure the president did not imply that they should get into vigilante activities.

This is just simply trying to win the support of our people, a very civic duty to help us in stamping out criminality and fight against illegal


So it should be simply as that; whatever support that they can give to the efforts in government, pointing out those who are in the illicit trade,

even corrupt government officials, it's very important.

And this is the kind of call that the president had asked our people to be part of and it is not a call for them to engage in killings or be engaged

in vigilante activities.

AMANPOUR: Yes, I was just wondering about the professionalism of people who are called with patriotic fervor because, as you know, the president

has hit the pause button on this crackdown on drugs because of the killing of a South Korean businessman by, allegedly, corrupt police officials.

So doesn't itself that say there's something wrong with this operation?

I mean, doesn't 7,000 bodies in eight months give you pause, Mr. Foreign Secretary?

YASAY: Well, you see, have engaged and declared war against illegal drugs and we know, we have studied and analyzed and understood the implications

of that. There will be casualties. We have confirmed that there are about 2,000 deaths as a result of legitimate police operations.

But the rest is something that we're investigating very closely and thoroughly because we have categorized these as simple murders, they are

not part of what people have described as extrajudicial killings perpetrated by law enforcement agents.

So I think it will be unfair for us to just simply say because we have 6,000 or 7,000 deaths that all have been perpetrated as extrajudicial

killings, which is not so. The government admits and confirms that there are 2,000 deaths resulting from legitimate police operations, where the

rules of engagement have been strictly followed.

Nevertheless, there has been accusations or even insinuations that the police were not engaged or did not uphold the due process required under

rules of engagement. We are immediately investigating these things and allegations that in fact are being investigated very thoroughly and


AMANPOUR: It's interesting to hear you say that and I'm sure a lot of people will be pleased to hear you say that. But there's a problem and

that is a Senate panel that's been set up to actually investigate and to really examine this has already faced its first skull (ph).

Senator Leila De Lima (ph), just before the weekend, was arrested and escorted out of her office. She's the most high profile of those who have

been targeting and criticizing President Duterte's crackdown.

And she told me a few weeks ago that she felt the president was after her and that actually wanted to, quote, destroy her. Listen to what she told



LEILA DE LIMA, PHILIPPINE SENATOR: I think he has actually undertaken a personal vendetta against me because he has not forgotten what -- when I

was the chairperson of the Commission in Human Rights and I led an investigation into Davao death squad.

So he has not forgotten that. I've been warned that, if I proceed with a Senate inquiry, they are going to do this.


AMANPOUR: So that was several months ago and she was proved right, Mr. Foreign Secretary, the more she investigated, obviously the worse off she

was. And now she's been arrested and removed from this panel.

So how is the credibility of sort of independent investigations that you talked about?

YASAY: Well, again, as I was saying, that is her story. You know, the -- she has been arrested on the basis of a charge that was filed before the

courts and the courts had ordered the warrant for her arrest on the basis of the evidence presented.

Nevertheless, even as she's been arrested, she still is --


YASAY: -- presumed innocent under our justice system. So she will have to prove before the courts that she's in fact innocent and the proof that is

required to find her guilty will be proof beyond a reasonable doubt.

But there is something one should understand about the arrest of Senator de Lima. Senator de Lima is a very powerful person, she is a senator and you

see that our justice systems work. Nobody is spared. If you violate the law, you'll be arrested.


YASAY: Something I would like to emphasize.

AMANPOUR: Sorry, let me just interrupt you because even your vice president is quite concerned and she has talked about this as part of a

persistent campaign of political harassment.

As you know, the senator says it was a politically trumped-up charge. But more to the point, your justice secretary, over the weekend at a rally,

asked tens and thousands of the president's supporters who else they would like to see locked up.

I mean, that smacks of riling up the crowd. It smacks of Pontius Pilate when he was judging Jesus Christ.

Who do you want us to lock up next?

That's not due process.

YASAY: You see, Christiane, you said that even the vice president had expressed her concerns about what has happened. Well, then you see also

the vice president is a partisan political opposition of the president.

And if something happens to the president or the president is removed from office, she stands to benefit from it. The congress or the members of the

Senate that had expressed their objections (INAUDIBLE) happened are also members of the opposition to the president.

So you see, there is a very strong partisan political undertone that goes behind this criticism. I don't think it's fair for everyone to just simply

say that, because you're the vice president or you're a member of Congress or you're a senator (INAUDIBLE) that they're saying the truth. I think

let's wait and see what will be outcome or the trial of Senator de Lima.

AMANPOUR: Well, everybody is watching it. And obviously we'll wait and see and the president did say that she would be 100 percent safe because

many people are worried for her life and her safety.

But I want to move on to Philippine-U.S. relations. You've long been very, very close allies but you recently caused a bit of a stir, Mr. Foreign

Secretary, when you said the U.S. sees Filipinos as, quote, "little brown brothers."

What do you mean and what does that say about the state of relations between your two countries?

YASAY: Well, when I made that statement, I made it in the context of the fact that people should stop thinking that we are little brown brothers of

the United States.

We have grown up. Our desire is to stand on our own feet, you know, we do not want to be forever dependent upon the United States. We would like a

relationship with the United States to be interdependent with each other, interdependency based upon mutual respect and as a sovereign equal between

the two nations.

Our relationship with the United States will continue to be stronger. Our president has said that he will be working on the existing relationship to

really make sure that the mutual interests of the two countries will be fostered --


AMANPOUR: OK, just a quick last --

YASAY: -- incoming President Donald Trump this is --

AMANPOUR: -- yes, I hear you saying --

YASAY: -- an opportunity for us even to strengthen further that relationship.

AMANPOUR: Well, does that mean, because the president Duterte also suggested that he was moving towards China and perhaps less towards the

United States.

Do you think that is the trajectory we're going to see?

YASAY: I don't think that the president said that. The president simply said that we were going to make friends with everybody. We're going to

make a closer relationship with China. But this is not to be undertaken at the expense of our traditional partners, our allies and our neighbors. The

United States remains to be our strongest friend.

AMANPOUR: Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr., thank you so much for joining us from Geneva tonight.

YASAY: Thank you.

AMANPOUR: And now the rights of the most vulnerable are in jeopardy in many parts of the world right now. And it's the job of my next guest to

keep watch and to raise the alarm when abuses occur. I speak to Kenneth Roth, head of Human Rights Watch, about his increasingly tough job. That's






AMANPOUR: Welcome back to the program.

Now from the violent drug war in the Philippines to the global crackdown on journalists and NGOs, human rights are under threat across the globe and

increasingly in so-called democratic countries.

So what can be done to right this ship?

Our next guest is the executive director of Human Rights Watch, Kenneth Roth, who's joining me now from New York.

Welcome to the program. You obviously just heard the Philippine foreign secretary, who's just been defending himself at the U.N. Human Rights

Council or defending the nation about the drug war.

How does Human Rights see the drug war?

KENNETH ROTH, HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH: Well, first of all, I think it's important to stress that just because the president calls it a war doesn't

mean you can jettison the basic human rights to a fair trial, to the presumption of innocence.

Some of the things the foreign minister even referred to but the 7,000-plus young men who basically were picked up and summarily executed never saw a

court, never saw a judge, never had any presumption of anything. They were just executed.

And these executions have been actively encouraged by the president, sometimes overtly, something through thinly veiled rhetoric. But this has

been a disaster. Roughly 1,000 executions a month. I mean, the only thing that resembles a war is the death toll.

But the Philippine president is basically ripping up the most basic requirements of human rights and he says -- the foreign minister said, oh,

this is popular. But this is why you don't put basic rights up to a majority poll.

Everybody has a right to a fair trial, everybody has a right not to be summarily executed regardless of what the majority thinks. And in fact,

that's the worst kind of populism, to think that just because a majority likes these kind of executions, they are all right. Clearly they are not.

AMANPOUR: So, Kenneth Roth, those are a very harsh answer to what we just heard from the foreign secretary.

Can I ask you to answer this then, because Perfecto Yasay has said human rights must work to uplift human dignity. But human rights cannot be used

as a shield or an excuse to destroy the country.

ROTH: Yes, no, that's what he said today before the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva. And in essence, he's using enemy of the people

rhetoric, he's saying people who we think, based on who knows what evidence, are dealing in drugs are enemies of the people and therefore we

can execute them.

And that's in essence what he's saying. Now if you just think that through, nobody believes that. Now he's saying, oh, the police are abiding

by the rules of engagement. Human Rights Watch will be issuing a report on Thursday where we scrutinize that statement and without foreshadowing the

contents of it, let me just say it's poppycock to claim that the rules of engagement are being followed, just as it's utterly false to claim that the

repeated day after day violations of the basic rules are being investigated.

They are not. This is basically summary executions, given a green light from above with an enormous toll. It may be popular because the victims

tend to be poor young men, often from the slums, often from the shanty towns, the kind of forgotten people of society. And it may well be that

the majority of Filipinos are just as happy to get rid of these people. But that's no way to order a society.

Everybody has a right, even a poor person.

AMANPOUR: And let's move on, because we're going to -- we look forward to your report on that particular issue.

But as I said, there's a sort of a crackdown on human rights around the world, in many parts of the world, even including by democratic states.

Why has your Human Rights Watch official been denied access to Israel, for instance?

ROTH: Well, and it's interesting that -- you know, I guess in a world where Trump can claim that CNN or "The New York Times" are fake news,

Israel can claim that Human Rights Watch is a fake human rights organization. So they said you don't really --


ROTH: -- promote any human rights, you're just promoting Palestinian propaganda. But even though we report regularly on the Palestinian

Authority and Hamas, even though we report actually on every government in the Middle East and North Africa, even though we have actually decent

relations with the Israeli government, they just recently asked for our help with an Israeli citizen being held by Hamas, but because they didn't

like our regular criticisms of Israel, as we showed, as the facts dictate, they tried to prevent our researcher from being able to enter.

In doing this, they joined a fairly unsavory group of countries around the world that have done the same thing, governments like North Korea,

Uzbekistan, Iran, Sudan, Venezuela, Cuba. And fortunately Prime Minister Netanyahu, who was traveling in Australia at the time, once the outcry over

this action became pretty deafening, he stepped in and said, well, maybe we should reconsider.

They can file an appeal. In the meantime, the researcher can enter as a tourist and we'll look at this again. So it was an unfortunate effort to

silence the messenger rather than examining Israel's troublesome human rights record.

AMANPOUR: Well, it seems to be perhaps being rethought. But as we're talking about that, let me ask you about inside the United States because

everybody is looking at the U.S. right now. They see the threats of deportation, the bans and this and that but also just to say, today, rather

staggering statistics came out in terms of threats against Jewish community centers in the U.S. and also desecrating Jewish cemeteries.

I mean, there's a whole lot of trouble going on in the U.S. today as well.

Are you involved in that as well?

ROTH: We're deeply involved in the United States, Christiane; indeed our program on the United States is our largest program in any given country

and it has to be today.

And we're deeply worried about the rhetoric coming from the Trump administration. And while obviously it hasn't gone to the extreme of

Duterte in the Philippines, there's a parallel in the sense that Trump, too, claims to be speaking for the people and therefore justifying a number

of steps that are quite troublesome from a human rights perspective, whether it's banning people from mainly Muslim countries or these

deportations, these large-scale deportations without regard to the family or community ties of the individuals, many of whom have been in the United

States for years and years.

We see a rise in hate crimes, as you mentioned, with Jews, Muslims and various minorities the target. So we're deeply concerned about the

direction of the United States today and are working actively to try to reintroduce the fact that even a president who has been elected has to

respect basic rights.

AMANPOUR: All right, Ken Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, thank you so much for joining us today.

And when we come back, the Oscars may have been tormented by terrible mistakes, which were heard around the world...


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is not a joke, "Moonlight" has won Best Picture. "Moonlight," Best Picture.

AMANPOUR (voice-over): Well, that snafu doesn't of course overshadow the significance of "Moonlight" becoming the best film and first best film with

an all-black cast to win that Best Picture Oscar.

Next, taking a sad stance for solidarity, the filmmakers who won but couldn't come to collect their awards, like Syria's "White Helmets," the

famous civil defense force whose story won Best Documentary Short last night. The head of the White Helmets filmed this acceptance speech.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Speaking foreign language).





AMANPOUR: And finally tonight, as yet another annual Oscar night passes, we imagine a world far from the Hollywood royalty bedecked with blue

American civil liberties ribbons or Planned Parenthood pins.

As the red carpet was ramping up in L.A., the mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, was hosting a massive outdoor screening of the Iranian director, Asghar

Farhadi's film, "The Salesman," which was nominated for Best Foreign Film.

Thousands packed into Trafalgar Square to watch it for free. Farhadi boycotted the Oscar ceremony in protest against President Trump's travel

ban even though he had been given a special waiver. So he wasn't there in L.A. to accept his second Oscar. His first, of course, was for the

masterpiece, "A Separation." Instead the Iranian American astronaut, Anousheh Ansari, read out his acceptance speech for him.


ANOUSHEH ANSARI, ASTRONAUT: Filmmakers can turn their cameras to capture shared human qualities and break stereotypes of various nationalities and

religions. These -- they create empathy between us and others and empathy which we need today more than ever. Thank you on behalf of (INAUDIBLE)



AMANPOUR: Well said and indeed all the nominees in this category had signed a joint statement condemning what they called nationalism and

fanaticism in the United States and elsewhere and praising those who foster unity and understanding.

And that's it for our program tonight. Remember, you can always listen to our podcast, see us online at and follow me on Facebook and

Twitter. Thanks for watching and goodbye from London.