In a move reminiscent of Australia’s infamous military ties to Indonesia’s murderous Suharto dictatorship, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop announced on September 1 that Australia would send special forces to the Philippines.
The justification for the move is to combat Islamists on the southern island of Mindanao. However, the murderous President Rodrigo Duterte has used the presence of Islamists in the region to impose martial law over the island in what progressive activists fear is a prelude to imposing martial law over the entire country as the former Ferdinand Marcos dictatorship did.
The announcement came a few days after Australian Secret Intelligence Service director-general Nick Warners publicly “fist-bumped” Duterte, whose human rights abuses have caused widespread alarm.
Under Duterte’s regime, police and vigilantes openly encouraged by the president’s exhortation to kill alleged drug users and alleged small-time pushers, have carried out thousands of extrajudicial killings. Duterte has publicly suggested drug users should be exterminated in the same way as the Nazis sought to exterminate Jews, and questioned whether drug users could be considered as humans.
Ellecer Carlos, a human rights activist with the iDEFEND coalition spoke to the Radical Ideas conference in Melbourne on August 19, said Duterte has “put in place a de facto social cleansing policy which has sadly and needlessly led to the killings of 8000 to 12,000 human beings coming from the most vulnerable and impoverished sections of Philippine society.”