Trump on charm of­fen­sive in Philip­pines

Duterte praised de­spite du­bi­ous rights record

Daily Dispatch - - Social/ World -

DON­ALD Trump de­clared yes­ter­day he had a “great re­la­tion­ship” with Philip­pine Pres­i­dent Ro­drigo Duterte, a self-pro­claimed killer who is wag­ing a drugs war that rights groups say in­volves mass mur­der, as the lead­ers joked with each other in Manila.

The US pres­i­dent is in the Philip­pines with lead­ers of 18 other na­tions for two days of sum­mits, the fi­nal leg of a head­line-grab­bing Asian tour dom­i­nated by the North Korean nu­clear cri­sis.

The sec­ond half of his 12-day trip has taken him from Ja­pan to South Korea, China and Viet­nam be­fore Manila.

Rights groups had called on Trump to end his Asian jour­ney with a strong state­ment against Duterte’s drugs war, which has seen po­lice and sus­pected vig­i­lantes kill thou­sands of peo­ple.

But Trump and Duterte had a se­ries of en­coun­ters on Sun­day night and yes­ter­day morn­ing in which they ap­peared to en­joy each oth­ers’ com­pany.

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

Trump praised Duterte for his or­gan­i­sa­tion of the sum­mits, say­ing he han­dled them “beau­ti­fully”. “I’ve really en­joyed be­ing here,” he said.

As the re­porters were be­ing es­corted out of the room, one asked if Trump would raise the is­sue of hu­man rights.

Duterte, in re­sponse, jok­ingly called the me­dia “spies”.

Both laughed but and nei­ther an­swered. Duterte’s spokesman later said re­peat­edly that Trump did not raise any hu­man rights con­cerns in the meet­ing, which lasted about 40 min­utes.

How­ever, Trump spokes­woman Sarah Huck­abee San­ders said hu­man rights was raised, although “briefly”.

Duterte won elec­tions last year af­ter promis­ing to erad­i­cate il­le­gal drugs with an un­prece­dented cam­paign that would see up to 100 000 peo­ple killed.

Since he took of­fice, po­lice have re­ported killing 3 967 peo­ple in the crack­down. An­other 2 290 peo­ple have been mur­dered in drug-re­lated crimes, while thou­sands of other deaths re­main un­solved, ac­cord­ing to gov­ern­ment data.

Amnesty In­ter­na­tional ac­cuses po­lice of shoot­ing dead de­fence­less peo­ple and pay­ing as­sas­sins to mur­der ad­dicts.

When pres­sured over al­le­ga­tions of ex­tra-ju­di­cial killings car­ried out by po­lice, Duterte in­sists he has never told them to break the law.

But rights groups say po­lice are fol­low­ing Duterte’s in­cite­ments to kill, in­clud­ing com­ments made last year when he said he would be “happy to slaugh­ter” three mil­lion ad­dicts.

He has also re­peat­edly boasted about killing peo­ple him­self, most re­cently last week while in Viet­nam for the Asia-Pa­cific eco­nomic sum­mit.

“At the age of 16, I al­ready killed some­one. A real per­son, a rum­ble, a stab­bing. I was just 16 years old. It was just over a look,” Duterte said.

Re­la­tions be­tween the Philip­pines and the United States, long­time al­lies bound by a mu­tual de­fence treaty, de­te­ri­o­rated sharply un­der Obama as Duterte turned to­wards China and Rus­sia, and Duterte last year de­clared the Philip­pines’ “sep­a­ra­tion” from the US.

But Trump told Duterte in a tele­phone call in April that he was do­ing a “great job”, which helped to be­gin a diplo­matic thaw. “We are your ally. We are an im­por­tant ally,” Duterte said yes­ter­day, ap­pear­ing to con­firm re­la­tions were back on track, although he has also con­tin­ued to court China and Rus­sia.

Some Filipinos were not happy though, with hun­dreds of peo­ple stag­ing an anti-Trump rally near the con­fer­ence venue which led riot po­lice to use wa­ter can­non.

Duterte and Trump sat next to each other at a pre-sum­mit ban­quet on Sun­day, dur­ing which they smiled, chat­ted and clinked cham­pagne glasses.

Duterte, 72, also sang a Filipino love song, say­ing light­heart­edly that he did so on the or­ders of the US pres­i­dent. — AFP

Pic­ture: REUTERS

SUM­MIT HOST: Philip­pines Pres­i­dent Ro­drigo Duterte par­tic­i­pates in the US-Asean Sum­mit in Manila, Philip­pines yes­ter­day

ALL SMILES: US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump with Viet­nam’s Prime Min­is­ter Nguyen Xuan Phuc, left, and Pres­i­dent of the Philip­pines

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.