Trudeau should add killer Duterte to sanctions list

Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government has used its so-called Magnitsky Act to impose sanctions on Russian and Venezuelan leaders accused of human rights violations. Politically, that’s easy.

But the prime minister’s trip to Manila this week provides an opportunity to use that law against one of the true villains of the modern era – Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte. And that will be more difficult.

Duterte should be sanctioned. He condones, encourages and in all likelihood orders the murder of his own citizens. According to a complaint filed with the International Criminal Court in The Hague, he is responsible for the murder of at least 9,400 people suspected of being drug addicts or pushers.

Some murders were allegedly carried out by police acting under his instruction. Others are said to have been committed by state-financed vigilantes.

The European Union parliament has decried what it calls extrajudicial killings under the Duterte regime. The United Nations special rapporteur on extrajudicial killings has also taken him to task.

Duterte doesn’t deny his guilt. He admits it. In fact, he revels in it.

The former tough-guy mayor of Davao was elected president last year on a promise to kill 100,000 drug addicts and pushers. Last December, he bragged that as Davao’s mayor he had personally shot dead suspected criminals in order to set an example for his police officers.

On Friday, at an Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation summit in Vietnam, he bragged that he was a teenager when he made his first kill.

“At the age of 16, I already killed someone,” he said. “A real person. A rumble. A stabbing. I was just 16 years old. It was just over a look. How much more now that I am president?”

Last year he compared himself to Hitler, saying he would like to kill as many drug addicts as the Nazi leader did Jews. “At least Germany had Hitler,” he said.

Duterte does not take criticism well. He famously called Barack Obama a “son of a whore” when it was merely suggested that the then U.S. president might chide him for the murders. On Friday, the Philippine president threatened to slap the face of the UN special rapporteur.

So Trudeau should be prepared if he dares to criticize Duterte. Yet how could the prime minister not do so, particularly in light of Canada’s adoption of the Magnitsky Act last month?

That act, named after a Russian lawyer who died in prison after accusing officials there of tax fraud, gives Canada’s government the power to impose sanctions and travel bans on foreigners deemed to have committed gross human rights violations.

This month, Ottawa announced it was targeting 52 officials from Russia, Venezuela and South Sudan – including Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. With the possible exception of the three South Sudanese officials, I doubt that any of the 52 has as much blood on his hands as Duterte.

Given its provenance, the danger in the Magnitsky Act has always been that it would be used exclusively as a political weapon in the new Cold War between the west and Russia. Adding Venezuela to the mix does little to alleviate this problem since Maduro is already on Washington’s hit list.

The inclusion of three officials deemed responsible for the carnage in South Sudan broadens the effective scope of the act and is therefore welcome. But, since South Sudan is a not an important player on the world stage, that move was also easy.

Telling the truth about Duterte would be politically more difficult. He is popular both at home in the Philippines and among many in the diaspora – including some who have emigrated to Canada. But if the Liberal government truly believes in the principles behind the Magnitsky Act – if it truly believes there should be morality in foreign affairs – then Trudeau has no choice.

He cannot treat this murderous man as just another duly elected leader. He cannot travel all the way to Manila and ignore the killings there.

Practically, Canada can do little to affect events in the Philippines. But by using the Magnitsky Act against Duterte, it could at least signal its distaste.

Thomas Walkom is a Troy Media national columnist.

Just Posted

Red Deer record store celebrates its last Record Store Day

The Soundhouse, a guitar and record shop in downtown Red Deer, closes its doors next Saturday

WATCH: On 4—20 Day in Red Deer, marijuana users say legal weed a long time coming

Not wanting to wait for the federal government to legalize recreational marijuana,… Continue reading

Former Central Alberta MLA appealing fine for not protecting a list of 20,000 electors

List included names and addresses of voters in Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre

Proposed Alberta legislation would protect consumers

Alberta Utilities Commission would be given power to penalize natural gas and electricity providers

Red Deer beginning two major construction projects

Ross Street’s 1935-era water main to be replaced and 67th Street roundabout landscaped

WATCH: Central Alberta bouldering competition

Central Alberta climbers looked to prove they’re the best at a competition… Continue reading

WATCH: Red Deer RCMP and Emergency Services play for Humboldt

Red Deer police officers and firefighters laced up their skates to raise… Continue reading

WATCH: Flooding closes portion of Red Deer’s 43 Street

A portion of 43 Street in Red Deer was closed Saturday morning… Continue reading

After air accidents, survivors grapple with flying again

Hundreds of hands grappling with oxygen masks. Flight attendants warning passengers to… Continue reading

Queen Elizabeth to attend pop concert for 92nd birthday

LONDON — Queen Elizabeth is marking her 92nd birthday with a Saturday… Continue reading

‘Such a great person:’ Funeral being held for assistant coach with Broncos

STRASBOURG, Sask. — Mark Cross was a ferocious competitor when he played… Continue reading

UPDATE: Missing Innisfail woman located

A 54-year-old Innisfail woman, who had not been seen since Wednesday, has… Continue reading

Hellebuyck makes 30 saves, Jets beat Wild in Game 5 to advance to Round 2

WINNIPEG — Bryan Little’s teammates were happy they could deliver something special… Continue reading

Most Read


Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month