Pubdate: Thu, 01 Sep 2016
Source: Philippine Daily Inquirer (Philippines)
Copyright: 2016 Philippine Daily Inquirer
Author: Leila B. Salaverria


President: US Leader Must First See Context

PRESIDENT Duterte yesterday said he was ready to defend his 
take-no-prisoners war on drugs in a discussion of the human rights 
situation in the Philippines with US President Barack Obama in Laos next week.

Mr. Duterte said he was willing to meet with Obama on the sidelines 
of the East Asia Summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations 
(Asean) meeting in Vientiane on Sept. 6, but he would demand that he 
be allowed to first explain the context of his merciless crackdown on 
the illegal drug trade before engaging the US leader in a discussion 
of the human rights situation in the Philippines.

The White House on Monday said that Obama planned to raise US 
concerns over the extrajudicial killings in Mr. Duterte's war on 
drugs when they meet in Laos.

The United States, United Nations and international organizations 
have expressed concern about the state of human rights in the 
Philippines as the body count mounts in Mr. Duterte's brutal campaign 
to stem the illegal drug trade.

More than 2,000 drug suspects have been killed, nearly half of them 
in police operations, since Mr. Duterte took office on June 30 and 
immediately launched a drive to fulfill a campaign promise of killing 
tens of thousands of criminals and stamping out illegal drugs within 
six months of his presidency.

Asked yesterday if he was willing to discuss the rights situation 
with Obama, Mr. Duterte said, "It depends at what degree."

'Listen to me first'

"They must understand the problem first before we talk about human 
rights," he told reporters at Ninoy Aquino International Airport, 
where he met 120 Filipino workers who had lost their jobs in Saudi Arabia.

"I would insist, 'Listen to me. This is what the problem is.' Then we 
can talk. No problem," the President said.

"Avoid drugs at all costs because it could cost your lives, too," he 
said to the laid-off migrant workers, adding that 3 million Filipinos 
are drug addicts.

Criticism by the US government, UN rights experts and human rights 
groups over the extrajudicial killings have provoked angry outbursts 
from Mr. Duterte, who, at one point, threatened to pull the 
Philippines out of the United Nations.

In profanity-laced tirades, he said the United Nations had failed to 
prevent genocidal killings in Africa and the Middle East, and the 
United States had failed to stop the killings of African-Americans by 
white police.

The United States has urged the Duterte administration to ensure that 
law enforcement efforts comply with human rights obligations in the 
crackdown on illegal drugs, which includes forcing the surrender of 
drug users and detaining them.

"We are concerned by these detentions, as well as the extrajudicial 
killings of individuals suspected to be involved in drug activity in 
the Philippines," US state department spokesperson Elizabeth Trudeau said.

"We strongly urge the Philippines to ensure its law enforcement 
efforts comply with its human rights obligations," she added.

The White House said Obama would also raise concerns about some of 
Mr. Duterte's "recent statements" when they meet next week.

It was a reference to Mr. Duterte's lashing out at US Ambassador 
Philip Goldberg, branding him a "gay son of a b*tch."

The White House said, however, that there were also important 
security issues for Obama and Mr. Duterte to discuss, particularly 
tensions over freedom of navigation in the South China Sea.

China has been incensed by a ruling against its claims to almost all 
of the South China Sea by an international arbitration court, in an 
action brought by the Philippines.

Similarities with Putin

Mr. Duterte is also expected to meet with Russian President Vladimir 
Putin in Laos.

"That I look forward to," he said. Asked why, he said he liked Putin more.

"We have a lot of similarities," he said.

Asked what similarities, he replied: "Maybe when it comes to girls."
- ---
MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom