Trump urged to take up human rights with Duterte
LEADERS OF a human rights commission in the US Congress have written a letter to US President Donald J. Trump urging him to discuss the human rights situation in the Philippines when he meets with its president, Rodrigo R. Duterte, at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) meeting in Manila next week.
“During your upcoming visit to the Philippines for meetings with regional leaders at the ASEAN summit in Manila, including Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte, we urge you to impress upon President Duterte the United States’ profound concern over reported extrajudicial killings associated with the Philippine government’s ‘war on drugs,’” read the Nov. 2 letter to Mr. Trump sent by the bipartisan- led Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission of the US House of Representatives.
The commission is co-chaired by Randall Mark Hultgren ( RIllinois) and James Patrick McGovern (D-Massachusetts).
The letter, as sent to the media by Human Rights Watch, cited among other sources a Country Report on Human Rights Practices for 2016 by the US State Department, as well as a hearing by the commission on July 20 where “we were distressed to learn that police have killed 7,000 alleged drug dealers and users without charges or trial since the Philippine government launched its campaign against illicit drugs,” Messrs. Hultgren and McGovern said.
Testimonies at the said hearing were by witnesses Ellecer Carlos of iDEFEND, Philippines; Senior Crisis Advisor Matthew Wells of Amnesty International; and Deputy Director Phelim Kine of the Asia Division of Human Rights Watch. Also submitted for the record at that hearing were correspondence by the Embassy of the Philippines in Washington, D.C., and the Secretary of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of the Philippines, as well as statements by various groups such as the Ecumenical Advocacy Network on the Philippines and Katarungan.
The letter noted further that “Human rights are fundamental,” that “Every government should afford their citizens the protection and due process of the law,” that “The Philippines is a valuable ally of the United States and major recipient of US aid,” and, “For these reasons, it is paramount that human rights violations not be the consequences of the Philippines’ ‘war on drugs.’”
Apart from the ASEAN summit next week, Mr. Duterte is expected to meet Mr. Trump and other state leaders at this week’s Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Vietnam.
Philippine officials hinted at a “possible pull-aside” between the two leaders at APEC. “(B)oth Presidents are looking very much forward to personally meeting each other,” Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Manuel A.J. Teehankee said on Thursday afternoon, when Mr. Duterte addressed the APEC CEO Summit in Da Nang.
It was earlier reported that Mr. Trump will take up human rights with Mr. Duterte, and this possibility was also raised by US Ambassador to the Philippine Sung Y. Kim.
A meeting with then US President Barack H. Obama, Jr. was canceled at last year’s APEC after Mr. Duterte, in a profanityaccented tirade, lashed out at Mr. Obama’s reported agenda to discuss human rights with him.
On Wednesday’s departure remarks this time, Mr. Duterte said of his expected meeting with Mr. Trump, “I will not go there as a subservient lackey of anyone including what you would like to hear from me but which you cannot ask maybe or later on about human rights.”
“Lay off. That’s not your business. That is my business,” he also said in part. —