LIHUE – Last Monday, Sara Duterte, the mayor of Davao, a city on the island of Mindanao in the Philippines, was signing a partnership between sister city and mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr.
She is the daughter of Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte, whose administration has been criticized by Amnesty International and other groups for committing several human rights violations.
In a statement to TGI, the spokesman for Sarah Blane, County of Kauai, said that relationships between sisters and cities are not approved by a specific government type or government type.
"They are not agreements between two elected officials, but rather a commitment to promote relationships between the people in those communities, about aloha and cultural exchanges that are given and received," she said.
The sister community with Davao is the fifth between cities in the Philippines and the county of Kauai.
"It's about collaboration and creating and strengthening an open, communicative atmosphere to stimulate an increased exchange of ideas, especially in tourism and culture, agriculture and commerce and commerce," Carvalho said in a press release after signing.
"As the world continues to evolve, the challenges we face are becoming increasingly complex, and more than ever, it's important to constantly learn and work with others to find solutions to address issues that we may face, "said Sara Duterte in the press release.
In February, Carvalho Davao visited and signed a similar agreement in his town hall.
"Through these relationships with twin cities, I have had the opportunity to visit the Philippines and learn first hand how Hawaii and the Philippines are separated by the ocean, but connected by our family sense, and our commitment to our youth. building, our connection with our culture and heritage, and our commitment to agriculture, tourism and other business and economic enterprises, "Carvalho said.
But Davao himself and the Duterte family are not free from controversies.
Although Amnesty International did not respond to a request for an interview, a quick search on his website revealed dozens of articles about President Duterte, who once was Davao's mayor and is known for his stern attitude towards the drug war in the city, who allegedly included death squads and vigilance in killing thousands of alleged drug vendors, dealers and other criminals.
An article from Amnesty International of October 7, 2016 states that 100 days after his presidency, 3,000 lives were lost, marked by state-sanctioned violence on a really shocking scale & # 39 ;.
"His (Rodrigo Duterte) brutal repression of those allegedly involved in drug law offenses has led to massacre on the streets and the destruction of important human rights, including the right to life and fair trial," Rafendi Djamin, director of Southeast Asia and the Pacific at Amnesty International, was quoted as saying in the article.
The presidency of Duterte has created an environment where everyone can kill or be killed in the name of the war on drugs, Djamin said.
An article published by the Human Rights Watch of March 2, 2017, states that as of that year more than 7,000 people were killed in the anti-drug campaign of Duterte and in March, an article published by The Global Journalist, states that the number has increased to more than 12,000 deaths.
Sara Duterte – whose office refused to take part in this story – was elected Vice-Mayor for the first time in 2007, while her father was mayor. Reports say they attacked a sheriff of the court, which led to the demolition of a squat community some years ago. As a deal with her father, she ran for the mayor in 2016.
She is a lawyer, married and mother of three, and is looking for re-election in the 2019 elections.
Her husband and older brother were involved in a large methamphetamine smuggling bust in 2017, but were acquitted of all charges for lack of evidence.
Blane told TGI the people of Davao and the concepts of friendship, understanding and goodwill are not political. They are universal, Blane said.
"By sharing our aloha spirit with others, we have the ability to promote unity instead of perpetuating division," she said.
Founded by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1956, the mission of the sister city organization is to promote peace through mutual respect, understanding and cooperation – one individual, one community at a time.
Christina Burchette, communications manager for Sister Cities International, told TGI the purpose of twin cities is citizens who work with citizens to make the world a better place.
When asked if Sister Cities International worried about Davao, Burchette replied: "There should be no political association with the program, which is not the driving force behind the purpose of twin cities."
The organization's policy states that it is an autonomous, non-profit organization whose policies and actions are independent of each individual, as well as any federal, state or local entity.
"Our members and our volunteer civilian diplomats are proud to represent their respective communities, and to maintain relationships with citizens in other countries, even when official national relations are problematic," it says.
TGI also asked the Kauai Filipino Chamber of Commerce whether they were concerned about the connection.
In a written response, the Philippine Chamber of Commerce of Kauai said they were looking forward to working with the province to make this sister city relationship a success.
"Mayor Sara Duterte is a duly elected official and we will work with her as mayor of Davao City, and our hope is that this relationship between twin cities will open doors for our Kauai companies to do more business in the Philippines, "said the statement.
The Philippine community council of Kauai said that the cooperation between sister city and Davao is coming at the right time.
"Through our examples and struggles we hope to show that we can indeed overcome a better Kauai, Hawaii and a country and contribute to it," said the statement.
Betanië Freudenthal can be reached at 652-7891 or bfreudenthal @ thegarden