Trump says PH vi­tal for mil­i­tary rea­sons

Sun.Star Cebu - - NATION - / AFP

Don­ald Trump said Tues­day strong US ties with the Philip­pines were vi­tal for mil­i­tary rea­sons, as he ended a trip to Manila in which he ig­nored al­le­ga­tions of mass mur­der un­der Ro­drigo Duterte.

The US pres­i­dent said he had re­paired re­la­tions with the Philip­pines, which soured last year when the ad­min­is­tra­tion of for­mer pres­i­dent Barack Obama crit­i­cised Duterte’s drug war.

“The (Philip­pines’) re­la­tion­ship with the past ad­min­is­tra­tion was hor­ri­ble, to use a nice word. I would say hor­ri­ble is putting it mildly,” Trump told re­porters.

“And now we have a very, very strong re­la­tion­ship with the Philip­pines, which is re­ally im­por­tant: less so for trade, in this case, than for mil­i­tary pur­poses.” Duterte vowed dur­ing last year’s elec­tion cam­paign that he would wage an un­prece­dented crack­down to erad­i­cate il­le­gal drugs in so­ci­ety, which he said would claim up to 100,000 lives.

Since Duterte took of­fice 16 months ago thou­sands of peo­ple have been killed, with rights groups ac­cus­ing po­lice and hired as­sas­sins of mass mur­der.

Then-pres­i­dent Obama urged Duterte to fol­low the rule of law in pros­e­cut­ing the drug war.

Duterte re­sponded by brand­ing Obama a “son of a whore” and us­ing the con­tro­versy as a rea­son for build­ing closer ties with China and Rus­sia.

The Philip­pines, a for­mer Amer­i­can colony, had been one the United States’ most im­por­tant al­lies in Asia, and the na­tions re­main bound by a mu­tual de­fence pact.

Rights groups had called on Trump to voice con­cerns about the drug war in Manila, which was the last stop on a 12-day Asian tour.

Trump in­stead ap­peared in a range of events on the side­lines of sum­mits in­volv­ing lead­ers from 19 na­tions in which he and Duterte clearly en­joyed each oth­ers’ com­pany.

“We’ve had a great re­la­tion­ship. This has been very suc­cess­ful,” Trump told Duterte in brief open­ing re­marks at their of­fi­cial meet­ing on Mon­day.

“I’ve re­ally en­joyed be­ing here.” Trump then laughed as Duterte called the for­eign and lo­cal me­dia in the room “spies”.

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