Duterte, Trump ig­nore hu­man rights vi­o­la­tions

Sun.Star Cebu - - NATION - RUTH ABBEY GITA / Re­porter @RuthAbbey SUNSTAR PHILIP­PINES

The is­sue of hu­man rights did not come up dur­ing the 40-minute bi­lat­eral meet­ing be­tween Pres­i­dent Ro­drigo Duterte and United States Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, Mala­cañang said on Mon­day.

The two lead­ers, how­ever, had a “frank dis­cus­sion” on sev­eral is­sues, in­clud­ing the Philip­pines’ bru­tal crack­down on nar­cotics that has killed thou­sands of sus­pects, said Pres­i­den­tial Spokesper­son Harry Roque.

He said Trump ap­peared “sym­pa­thetic” when Duterte men­tioned his re­lenlt­ess cam­paign against il­le­gal drugs trade.

“The is­sue of hu­man rights did not arise. It was not brought up. It was Pres­i­dent Duterte who dis­cussed with Pres­i­dent Trump the drug men­ace in the Philip­pines, and the US Pres­i­dent ap­peared sym­pa­thetic and did not have any of­fi­cial po­si­tion on the mat­ter, merely nod­ding his head, in­di­cat­ing that he un­der­stood the do­mes­tic prob­lem that we face on drugs,” Roque said.

Shortly af­ter the bi­lat­eral meet­ing be­tween the two lead­ers, a for­eign jour­nal­ist asked Trump whether he raised the hu­man rights is­sue with Duterte.

Duterte, re­spond­ing to the re­porter’s query, said they would not en­ter­tain any ques­tions con­cern­ing the pur­ported hu­man rights vi­o­la­tion in the Philip­pines.

“We are not an­swer­ing any (ques­tion). We are in a bi­lat­eral meet­ing. Maybe the press con­fer­ence would fol­low. We would be talk­ing on mat­ters that (are) of in­ter­est to both the Philip­pines and (the United States). With you guys around, you are the spies,” he said, re­fer­ring to the me­dia.

On Novem­ber 9, Duterte said he would not tol­er­ate a dis­cus­sion with Trump about the re­ported hu­man rights abuses linked to his drug war.

He said deaths as­so­ci­ated with the anti-nar­cotics cam­paign was a do­mes­tic is­sue that only the Philip­pines must deal with.

“I feel that we (I and Trump) share so many ideas along the same line of prob­lems of gov­er­nance. i know that I’d have an in­ter­est­ing time with him,” he said last week.

“(But if he will talk about our war on drugs, I’ll tell him), lay off, sir, that’s my busi­ness.”

Roque said Trump merely as­sured Duterte that US “has al­ways been a friend of the Duterte ad­min­is­tra­tion.”

“The US. Pres­i­dent specif­i­cally said that he has al­ways been a friend of the Duterte ad­min­is­tra­tion, and that like pre­vi­ous ad­min­is­tra­tions of the United States, he stressed that he can be counted upon as a friend of the Duterte ad­min­is­tra­tion,” he said.

Trump, mean­while, was all praises for Duterte and said the US still has “great” ties with the Philip­pines.

The Amer­i­can leader, who con­grat­u­lated Duterte for “beau­ti­fully” han­dling the re­gional bloc’s fo­rum, ex­pressed his ap­pre­ci­a­tion for the Philip­pine gov­ern­ment’s “great treat­ment” to Asean lead­ers and their di­a­logue part­ners who graced the event.

“We’ve had a great re­la­tion­ship,” Trump told Duterte.

“I re­ally en­joyed be­ing here. We very much ap­pre­ci­ate the great treat­ment that you have given,” he added.

Philip­pine for­eign pol­icy, since Duterte as­sumed the pres­i­dency in July 2016, has veered to­ward China and Rus­sia and away from the US, a long-time ally of the Philip­pines.

Duterte had sev­eral times is­sued pro­fan­ity-laden re­marks against Trump’s pre­de­ces­sor, for­mer US pres­i­dent Barack Obama.

Duterte and Trump first met dur­ing the Asia-Pa­cific Eco­nomic Co­op­er­a­tion fo­rum in Viet­nam.

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