Philip­pines says no talk of hu­man rights

That ap­pears to con­tra­dict White House’s as­ser­tion.

Austin American-Statesman - - MORE OF TODAY’S TOP NEWS - By Emily Rauhala and David Naka­mura Wash­ing­ton Post

A spokesman for Philippine Pres­i­dent Ro­drigo Duterte said Tues­day that Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump of­fered to re­turn a fugi­tive who had fled to the United States and did not bring up hu­man rights is­sues at all dur­ing the bi­lat- eral meet­ing a day ear­lier.

Spokesman Harry Roque’s ac­count of the meet­ing ap­pears to con­tra­dict White House press sec­re­tary Sarah Huck­abee San­ders, who said “hu­man rights briefly came up” as the two lead­ers dis­cussed the Philip­pines’ bloody fight against il­licit drugs.

Roque sug­gested he was sur­prised that San­ders had told Amer­i­can re­porters here that the is­sue had come up. “It was not Trump who raised it. Trump never raised it, hon­estly,” Roque said. San­ders did not re­ply to an email seek­ing com­ment.

In the course of the dis­cus­sion, Duterte em­pha­sized that re­la­tions be­tween the two al­lied na­tions had tra­di­tion­ally been strong but had de­te­ri­o­rated over one “sour point,” a ref­er­ence to for­mer Pres­i­dent Barack Obama, Roque said.

Duterte be­lieved Obama was “obliv­i­ous to the ac­tual threat pre­sented by drugs in the Philip­pines,” the spokes- man de­clared. Dur­ing the meet­ing, Trump agreed the Philip­pines has one of the worst drug prob­lems in the world. Later, Trump asked if it was as bad as in Latin Amer­ica. Roque said Duterte be­lieves that it is.

At one point, Trump of­fered to ex­tra­dite a Phil- ip­pine fugi­tive in the United States. “Do you want him back?” Trump asked, ac­cord- ing to Roque. The U.S. pres­i­dent added: “I will send him back be­cause I know you fol­low the rule of law.”

Be­fore board­ing Air Force One en route back to Wash­ing­ton on Tues­day, Trump spoke briefly with re­porters. He said the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion had “a lot of prob­lems” in terms of its re­la­tion­ship with the Philip­pines, call­ing it “hor­ri­ble.”

Roque, in the in­ter­view, said he be­lieves San­ders was in­ter­ested in mak­ing it ap­pear that Trump had raised hu­man rights in a bid to pla­cate Trump’s “do­mes­tic con­stituency.” He said he de­cided not to chal­lenge San­ders’ state­ment im­me­di­ately af­ter it was dis­trib­uted to re­porters in an email as a way of com­pro­mis­ing with her. He said that a char­i­ta­ble read­ing of the meet­ing would be that Duterte was al­lud­ing to hu­man rights is­sues when he said the drug war was im­por­tant as an is­sue of “hu­man de­vel­op­ment.”

DOUG MILLS / THE NEW YORK TIMES

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump meets with Philip­pines Pres­i­dent Ro­drigo Duterte on the side­lines of the As­so­ci­a­tion of South­east Asian Na­tions sum­mit meet­ing in Manila on Mon­day.

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