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.