Trump hails his ‘great re­la­tion­ship’ with Philip­pines’ self-de­scribed killer Duterte

The Phnom Penh Post - - WORLD - Jerome Cartillier and Karl Malaku­nas

DON­ALD Trump de­clared yes­ter­day he had a “great re­la­tion­ship” with Philip­pine Pres­i­dent Ro­drigo Duterte, a self-pro­claimed killer who is wag­ing a drugs war that rights groups say in­volves mass mur­der, as the lead­ers joked with each other in Manila.

The US pres­i­dent is in the Philip­pines with lead­ers of 18 other na­tions for two days of sum­mits, the fi­nal leg of a head­line-grab­bing Asian tour dom­i­nated by the North Korean nu­clear cri­sis.

Al­le­ga­tions of Rus­sian med­dling in last year’s US pres­i­den­tial elec­tions have dogged the sec­ond half of his 12-day trip, which has taken him from Ja­pan to South Korea, China and Viet­nam.

Rights groups had called on Trump to end his Asian jour­ney with a strong state­ment against Duterte’s drugs war, which has seen po­lice and sus­pected vig­i­lantes kill thou­sands of peo­ple.

But in a se­ries of en­coun­ters over Sun­day and yes­ter­day, Trump and Duterte ap­peared to en­joy each other’s com­pany, lead­ing to warm praise from the US pres­i­dent dur­ing of­fi­cial talks at lunchtime.

“We’ve had a great re­la­tion­ship. This has been very suc­cess­ful,” Trump told Duterte in open­ing re­marks at their meet­ing. Trump praised Duterte for his or­gan­i­sa­tion of the sum­mits, say­ing he han­dled them “beau­ti­fully”.

“I’ve re­ally en­joyed here,” he said. be­ing

As the re­porters were be­ing es­corted out of the room, one asked if Trump would raise the is­sue of hu­man rights, to which Duterte jok­ingly called the me­dia “spies”. Both laughed but nei­ther an­swered.

Duterte’s spokesman later said re­peat­edly that Trump did not bring up any hu­man rights con­cerns in the meet­ing, which lasted about 40 min­utes.

He said the US leader nod­ded as he lis­tened to Duterte speak­ing about his drugs war.

How­ever Trump spokes­woman Sarah Huck­abee San­ders said hu­man rights were raised, al­though “briefly”.

Duterte won elec­tions last year af­ter promis­ing to erad­i­cate il­le­gal drugs with an un­prece­dented cam­paign that would see up to 100,000 peo­ple killed. Since he took of­fice, po­lice have re­ported killing 3,967 peo­ple in the crack­down.

An­other 2,290 peo­ple have been mur­dered in drug-re­lated crimes, while thou­sands of other deaths re­main un­solved, ac­cord­ing to gov­ern­ment data.

‘I al­ready killed some­one’

Many Filipinos back Duterte, be­liev­ing he is tak­ing nec­es­sary mea­sures to fight crime. But rights groups warn he may be or­ches­trat­ing a crime against hu­man­ity. Amnesty ac­cuses po­lice of shoot­ing dead de­fence­less peo­ple and pay­ing as­sas­sins to mur­der ad­dicts.

When pres­sured over al­le­ga­tions of ex­tra­ju­di­cial killings car­ried out by po­lice, Duterte in­sists he has never told them to break the law. But rights groups say po­lice are fol­low­ing Duterte’s in­cite­ments to kill, in­clud­ing com­ments made last year when he said he would be “happy to slaugh­ter” 3 mil­lion ad­dicts. He has also re­peat­edly boasted about killing peo­ple him­self, most re­cently last week while in Viet­nam for the Asi­aPa­cific eco­nomic sum­mit.

“At the age of 16, I al­ready killed some­one. A real per­son, a rum­ble, a stab­bing. I was just 16 years old. It was just over a look,” Duterte said.

For­mer US pres­i­dent Barack Obama was one of many prom­i­nent crit­ics of Duterte’s han­dling of the drugs war. The Philip­pine leader re­sponded last year by calling him a “son of a whore”.

Ties be­tween the Philip­pines and the United States, long­time al­lies bound by a mu­tual de­fence treaty, de­te­ri­o­rated sharply as Duterte turned to­wards China and Rus­sia.

Duterte last year de­clared the Philip­pines’ “sep­a­ra­tion” from the United States. But Trump told Duterte in a tele­phone call in April that he was do­ing a “great job”, which helped to be­gin a diplo­matic thaw.

“We are your ally. We are an im­por­tant ally,” Duterte said yes­ter­day, ap­pear­ing to con­firm re­la­tions were back on track, al­though he has also con­tin­ued to court China and Rus­sia.

Some Filipinos were not happy though, with hun­dreds of peo­ple stag­ing an anti-Trump rally near the con­fer­ence venue which led riot po­lice to use wa­ter can­non.

Cham­pagne, love song

Duterte and Trump sat next to each other at a pre­sum­mit ban­quet on Sun­day, dur­ing which they smiled, chat­ted and clinked cham­pagne glasses.

Duterte, 72, also sang a Filipino love song, say­ing light­heart­edly that he did so on the or­ders of the US pres­i­dent.

Duterte is host­ing the world lead­ers be­cause the Philip­pines holds the ro­tat­ing chair of the 10-na­tion As­so­ci­a­tion of South­east Asian Na­tions (Asean) bloc.

The events yes­ter­day and to­day in Manila are two sep­a­rate Asean-hosted sum­mits, which also in­clude China, Ja­pan, Rus­sia, South Korea, In­dia, Canada, Aus­tralia and New Zealand.

The ris­ing threat of Is­lamic State across South­east Asia, and fur­ther ef­forts to pres­sure North Korean leader Kim Jongun to aban­don his nu­clear am­bi­tions, were top agenda items in Manila.

ATHIT PERAWONGMETHA/AFP

US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump (left) speaks with Philip­pines Pres­i­dent Ro­drigo Duterte dur­ing a spe­cial gala cel­e­bra­tion din­ner for the Asean Sum­mit in Manila on Sun­day.

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