Duterte skips ASEAN-UN Summit
MANILA — President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday night skipped a major summit between Southeast Asian leaders and the United Nations chief due to the Philippine leader’s “full schedule,” Malacañang said.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres visited the country to participate in the annual UN meeting with leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit.
In a statement, Harry Roque, Duterte’s spokesman, said the president’s back-toback meetings prompted him to miss out the event and send Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano on his behalf.
“The president’s meetings went beyond schedule and, to avoid further delay, it was decided that Secretary Cayetano would attend the ASEAN-UN Summit on behalf of President Duterte while the chief executive was conducting meetings with other leaders,” Roque said.
Ahead of the ASEAN meet, four UN human rights experts urged the 10-member bloc to discuss “pressing” regional rights issues.
They also expressed concern over the “worrying deterioration in the environment” where human rights defenders operate.
Among the human rights issues hounding the region were the Philippines’ bloody “war on drugs,” the Rohingya crisis in Myanmar, the crackdown on dissenters in Vietnam and Cambodia and junta rule in Thailand.
Duterte, who does not tolerate criticisms of his rights record and brutal narcotics crackdown, has repeatedly lashed out at the UN for condemning his deadly antidrug campaign, which saw thousands of suspected drug dealers killed, mostly in slum areas.
Duterte had also slammed Ban KiMoon, Guterres’ predecessor, for supposedly meddling in Manila’s drive against drugs and for denouncing the president’s apparent endorsement of extrajudicial killing.
The firebrand leader earlier threatened to withdraw the Philippines from the UN—a remark he later dismissed as a joke.
In his remarks at the ASEAN-UN meet on Monday, Guterres did mention Manila’s bloody battle against drugs but lauded the Philippines’ efforts “towards peace over many years.”
He nonetheless raised alarm over the tragic plight of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar in remarks before that country's leader, Aung San Suu Kyi.