New Straits Times

Duterte to skip regional summit amid internatio­nal censure

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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.

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