Donald Trump arrived in the Philippines Sunday to attend a couple of international summits. It is the first face-to-face meeting between Trump and controversial Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte.
The American leader is on the final leg of his 12-day trip to Asia to shore up U.S. military and economic partnerships and alliances and to gain support for stronger sanctions against North Korea.
Duterte is under growing pressure from Philippine human rights organization and the international community to curtail his bloody campaign, allegedly against drug dealers but has likely swept up innocent people who have been victimized by extrajudicial killings by military, police and vigilante shootings.
Data from the Philippine National Police (PNP) show that as of July 26, 3,451 people suspected to be linked to illegal drug activities had been killed in legitimate operations. That number, however, has been disputed by nongovernmental groups. Human rights groups and various media organizations, such as the Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA), cited at least 12,000 deaths – including those allegedly killed by vigilantes.
President Barack Obama called out Duterte’s rights record, Trump has avoided public comment. A leaked transcript of a phone call with Duterte, however, showed that Trump privately praised the effort, telling Duterte that he was doing an “unbelievable job on the drug problem.”
In a letter dated November 2, Reps. Randy Hultgren (R-Illinois) and James McGovern (D-Massachusetts), co-chairs of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, called on Trump to use his meeting with Duterte as an opportunity to confront the Philippine leader about the reported cases of extrajudicial killings under the crackdown on drugs.Trump showed up at the first official event wearing a barong tagalog, the Philippines’ formal white shirt and sat next to Duterte.
After a private meeting between Trump and Duterte, both men said the issue of human rights did not come up.
In August, a prominent Filipino family issued a statement decrying President Rodrigo’s war on drugs.
The 10 children, 18 grandchildren, and 10 great-grandchildren of former Senator Jose Diokno condemned President Rodrigo Duterte’s bloody war against drugs and the extrajudicial killings that it is believed to have spurred.
“Enough of the slaughter of mostly poor Filipinos. Enough of the perversions of law in the name of the war on drugs,” Maris Serena Diokno, daughter of the late senator who was a staunch human rights advocate, wrote on behalf of their clan in a Facebook post on Sunday, August 20.
“The Diokno family, guided by the principles of our parents, pledges to stand for justice and human rights. We lend our voices to the raging cries of the thousands killed and call on the government to comply with the Constitution and laws of our country, and stop the bloody war on drugs, which has only resulted in death, and has not reduced the influx of drugs into the country,” she said.
According to Rappler, the Dioknos issued the statement after 17-year-old Kian delos Santos was killed in what police called a “shooting encounter” August 16, that claimed 32 lives, which media sources have dubbed the bloodiest single night in the war against drugs.
“The murder of Kian delos Santos, and the deaths of thousands before him, show how little the government values the lives of Filipinos, and how much contempt it has for the law,” Diokno, a former National Historical Commission of the Philippines chairperson, said.
“Enough of the perversions of law in the name of the war on drugs. Killings, rather than the arrests and prosecutions mandated in our laws, have become the standard operating procedure of law enforcement,” she stressed.
Diokno called on the public not to be silent on the killings.
While President Barack Obama criticized Duterte’s human rights record, Trump has steered clear of public comment. A leaked transcript of a phone call with Duterte, however, showed that he privately praised the effort, telling Duterte that he was doing an “unbelievable job on the drug problem.”
U.S. lawmakers are calling on Trump to express concern, and the White House hinted that he just might. Duterte, meanwhile, has said that he is “sure” the U.S. president will not. “He’s not the human rights commission,” the Philippine leader said.
While world leaders were having dinner in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), demonstrators outside protested the increased military presence in the Philippines, U.S. policy in Asia and Duterte’s admnistration.
Demonstrators took to the streets in Manila both on Sunday and Monday, protesting against Trump’s visit and carrying banners like “Trump Go Home” and “Ban Trump #1 terrorist”.
Riot police used water cannon and sonic alarms to repel the protesters.
Trump was originally scheduled to depart Manila on Monday but he added a day to the visit so he could more fully participate in one of the summits.
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