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Trump unlikely to rebuke Duterte for drug war killings

  • President Donald Trump speaks with Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte at an ASEAN Summit dinner at the SMX Convention Center, Sunday, Nov. 12, 2017, in Manila, Philippines. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik) Andrew Harnik

  • President Donald Trump toasts Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte, right, at an ASEAN Summit dinner at the SMX Convention Center, Sunday, Nov. 12, 2017, in Manila, Philippines. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik) Andrew Harnik

  • President Donald Trump and Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte, right, join other leaders for a family photo at an ASEAN Summit dinner at the SMX Convention Center, Sunday, Nov. 12, 2017, in Manila, Philippines. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik) Andrew Harnik



Associated Press
Sunday, November 12, 2017

MANILA, Philippines — Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has sanctioned a bloody drug war that features extrajudicial killing. He called Barack Obama a “son of a whore.” This week, he boasted that he murdered a man with his own hands.

All that may well go unmentioned in public by President Donald Trump when the leaders hold talks Monday.

Breaking with his presidential predecessors, Trump has largely abandoned publicly pressing foreign leaders on human rights, instead showing a willingness to embrace international strongmen for strategic gain. He has cozied up to autocrats such as Saudi Arabia’s King Salman, Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi and Russian President Vladimir Putin. And earlier in this trip to Asia he made no mention of human rights during multiple appearances in Beijing with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

“Trump seems very comfortable with strongmen. It’s not just that he won’t criticize Duterte. I wouldn’t be surprised if he patted him on the back,” said Mike Chinoy, senior fellow at U.S.-China Institute at the University of Southern California.

Duterte’s war on drugs has alarmed human rights advocates around the world who say it has allowed police officers and vigilantes to ignore due process and to take justice into their own hands. Government officials estimate that well over 3,000 people, mostly drug users and dealers, have died in the ongoing crackdown. Human rights groups believe the victim total is far higher, perhaps closer to 9,000.

“Human rights groups, I think, will be quite disappointed by the visit,” said Amy Searight, director of the Southeast Asia Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “It’s unlikely that human rights or rule of law or due process are going to be topics that President Trump will raise.”

Duterte has strenuously defended the violence and boasted of participating himself.

Late last year, he bragged that he personally pulled the trigger and killed three people years ago while serving as mayor of Davao City. And last week, while in Vietnam for an international summit, he said he took his first life years earlier.

“When I was a teenager, I had been in and out of jail, rumble here and there,” Duterte said during a speech in Danang, where he briefly crossed paths with Trump on the sidelines of an international summit.

“At the age of 16, I already killed someone.”