World lead­ers and their dance around Duterte


National Post (National Edition) - - FRONT PAGE - ANDY BLATCH­FORD in Manila, Philip­pines

Philip­pine Pres­i­dent Ro­drigo Duterte has sanc­tioned a bloody drug war that fea­tures ex­tra­ju­di­cial killing. He called Barack Obama a “son of a whore.” Last week, he boasted that he mur­dered a man with his own hands.

But that doesn’t mean world lead­ers have been call­ing the Philip­pine strong­man to ac­count over hu­man rights abuses.

Hu­man rights came up only briefly when Don­ald Trump had a 40-minute meet­ing with the Philip­pines’ leader, said White House press sec­re­tary Sarah Huck­abee San­ders on Mon­day. Al­though even that ap­peared to con­flict with the Philip­pines’ ver­sion of the meet­ing. Harry Roque, a spokesman for Duterte, said “there was no men­tion of hu­man rights. There was no men­tion of ex­tra-le­gal killings. There was only a rather lengthy dis­cus­sion of the Philip­pine war on drugs with Pres­i­dent Duterte do­ing most of the ex­plain­ing.”

Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau has hinted he might bring up the is­sue of hu­man rights with Duterte, if he gets the op­por­tu­nity.

“There are a range of is­sues that I could bring up with him, that I may bring up with him, if we have an op­por­tu­nity,” Trudeau said Satur­day in Danang, Viet­nam. “There’s al­ways hu­man rights con­cerns to bring up with a wide range of lead­ers.”

It re­mains to be seen if Trudeau will chal­lenge Duterte face to face over his vi­o­lent drug war. The lead­ers have no one-on-one meet­ings planned dur­ing sum­mits in the Philip­pines re­lated to the As­so­ci­a­tion of South­east Asian Na­tions.

How­ever, thanks to Duterte’s ef­fort, Trudeau will have a cov­eted op­por­tu­nity Tues­day to par­tic­i­pate in a work­ing lunch in Manila ahead of an ASEAN-af­fil­i­ated meet­ing known as the East Asia Sum­mit. Trudeau will join lead­ers from 18 coun­tries, in­clud­ing China, Rus­sia and the United States, to dis­cuss se­cu­rity is­sues.

Trudeau’s ticket to Tues­day’s lun­cheon is a break­through be­cause no other Cana­dian prime min­is­ter has ever been in­vited. He’s ex­pected to dis­cuss North Korea and the vi­o­lent at­tacks on Ro­hingya Mus­lims in Myan­mar. Even­tu­ally, Canada hopes to be­come a per­ma­nent mem­ber of the East Asia Sum­mit.

Trudeau will also be the first Cana­dian leader to par­tic­i­pate in a one-hour ex­change at the ASEAN sum­mit, dur­ing which mem­bers will ask him ques­tions and de­bate the depth of Canada’s co-op­er­a­tion in the re­gion.

The op­por­tu­nity ar­rives at a time when Trudeau is mak­ing efforts to raise Canada’s in­ter­na­tional pro­file and demon­strate it can wres­tle with com­pli­cated chal­lenges, at home and abroad.

With­out the in­vi­ta­tion from Duterte, the sum­mit’s chair, Trudeau wouldn’t have made it through the door.

“It is the pre­rog­a­tive of the chair each year of ASEAN to in­vite guests,” said one se­nior gov­ern­ment of­fi­cial, who spoke on con­di­tion of anonymity.

“Tra­di­tion­ally, there have been very few of those, so in a way the Philip­pines have gone out on a limb, let’s say.”

Carlo Dade of the Canada West Foun­da­tion, a Cal­gary think-tank, said join­ing the group would mean a longterm com­mit­ment.

“It also has the Cana­dian PM sit­ting around a table where he or she will be called upon by Cana­dian hu­man rights groups to yell and point fin­gers with a group that doesn’t want to dis­cuss hu­man rights is­sues and cer­tainly doesn’t want to be lec­tured by Canada,” Dade said in an email.

He said sit­ting with Duterte could mean po­lit­i­cal headaches, es­pe­cially for a prime min­is­ter who has tried to stress hu­man rights.

“This makes a mock­ery of (the Lib­eral gov­ern­ment’s) whole ‘pro­gres­sive’ agenda,” he added.

Dade said he thinks Canada should join the group, “but only if do­ing so does not do more harm than good.”

Duterte’s war on drugs has alarmed hu­man rights ad­vo­cates who say it has al­lowed po­lice of­fi­cers and vig­i­lantes to ig­nore due process and take jus­tice into their own hands. Gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials es­ti­mate well over 3,000 peo­ple, mostly drug users and deal­ers, have died in the crack­down. Hu­man rights groups be­lieve the vic­tim to­tal is far higher, per­haps closer to 9,000.

Late last year, Duterte bragged that he killed three peo­ple years ago while serv­ing as mayor of Davao City. And last week, while in Viet­nam for an in­ter­na­tional sum­mit, he said he took his first life years ear­lier when he stabbed some­one to death at the age of 16 over a “look.”

Trump’s pub­lic si­lence on the abuses of Duterte’s regime has dis­mayed hu­man rights groups who be­lieve the spot­light an Amer­i­can pres­i­dent can shine on hu­man rights abuses over­seas can rally pres­sure on an au­thor­i­tar­ian gov­ern­ment to change its ways.

“In the old days, we used to call on the U.S. gov­ern­ment to raise hu­man rights is­sues dur­ing these trips,” said John Sifton, Asia ad­vo­cacy di­rec­tor at Hu­man Rights Watch. But given the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s lack of cred­i­bil­ity in rais­ing hu­man rights abuses, he said, they have piv­oted to a dif­fer­ent tack, fo­cus­ing on in­ter­na­tional at­ten­tion.

“We haven’t given up,” Sifton said.



Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau greets Philip­pine Pres­i­dent Ro­drigo Duterte at the South­east Asian Na­tions Sum­mit.


Viet­nam Prime Min­is­ter Nguyen Xuan Phuc, left, U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump and Philip­pines Pres­i­dent Ro­drigo Duterte join hands dur­ing the 31st As­so­ci­a­tion of South East Asian Na­tions (ASEAN) Sum­mit in Manila Mon­day. World lead­ers are in the Philip­pines’ cap­i­tal for two days of sum­mits.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.