New Straits Times
Duterte to skip regional summit amid international censure
MANILA: Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte is skipping a regional summit in Australia this month, his spokesman said yesterday, as he faces international censure for Manila’s deadly drug war.
Duterte’s decision to snub the meeting came after he said he would not cooperate with United Nations investigators looking into alleged extrajudicial killings during the narcotics crackdown, which had left thousands dead.
His spokesman, Harry Roque, confirmed that the outspoken leader would not join fellow Asean leaders for the March 17 to 18 summit in Sydney.
“Developments at home continue to require the president’s presence in the Philippines,” Roque said.
Australia was among several countries to raise concern about the Philippine anti-drug war’s death toll at a UN Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva last year.
Duterte was elected in 2016 on a promise to eradicate drugs and launched an unprecedented campaign, in which police said they had killed more than 4,100 drug suspects who resisted arrest.
But rights groups estimated there had been more than 12,000 deaths in all, including people murdered by shadowy vigilante groups.
Duterte, who last week told police and soldiers not to cooperate with any probe, is also facing a preliminary examination by the International Criminal Court over alleged extrajudicial killings.
Roque said Duterte would send Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano as his representative to the summit, while the president attended the graduation ceremony of the Philippine Military Academy.
Duterte planned to use the event to speak to young officers about the fight against “modernday terrorism” among other topics, Roque added.