Tue, May 02, 2017 - Page 5 News List

Duterte invite sparks outrage

‘THE BIGGEST STICK’:The president’s US visit would potentially happen soon due to urgency over North Korea, a Philippine foreign affairs spokesperson said

AP, MANILA

Police surround protesters at a rally in Manila yesterday to protest the continuing killings under Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s “war on drugs” and to mark the global celebration of May Day. As in past years, workers mark May Day with calls for higher wages and an end to the so-called “Endo” or contractualization.

Photo: AP

A US-based human rights group says US President Donald Trump should seek accountability and not offer to roll out the White House red carpet for Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, who the group accuses of being a mass murder “mastermind” amid the thousands of deaths in his crackdown against drugs.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) and other critics yesterday reacted with alarm and outrage at Trump’s invitation for Duterte to visit the White House in a telephone call where the Trump also affirmed the US’ treaty alliance and friendship with the Philippines and its new president, who has had an antagonistic stance toward US security policies.

Left-wing Philippine group Bayan urged Duterte to reject Trump’s invitation, saying the visit would not change what it said was the US’ lopsided relations with its former colony.

“It may provide an interesting photo op, but nothing more,” Bayan secretary-general Renato Reyes said.

The US and other nations close to the Philippines “have an obligation to urge accountability for the victims of Duterte’s abusive drug war, rather than offer to roll out the red carpet for official state visits with its mastermind,” HRW deputy director for Asia Phelim Kine said.

Kine said separately in an e-mailed response to questions from the AP that Trump might be undertaking action inimical to human rights by adopting an overly friendly overture to Duterte, who is facing a complaint for alleged mass murder before the International Criminal Court.

“Trump should recognize that he has cut a bad deal for the people of both the United States and the Philippines if he rolls out the red carpet for a Duterte visit without carefully weighing the implications of hosting and toasting a foreign leader whose links to possible crimes against humanity for instigating and inciting extrajudicial killings has already prompted warnings from the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court,” he said.

Duterte has said in the past that his administration did not have a policy backing extrajudicial killings, although he has repeatedly threatened drug suspects with death and unusual violence in his nationally televised speeches.

Duterte’s spokesman Ernie Abella did not immediately reply to a request for reaction to HRW’s statement.

The Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs said Duterte has not yet responded to Trump’s offer, adding that an official US invitation would kick off diplomatic arrangements for Duterte’s possible US trip.

If Duterte accepts, the trip might happen soon because of the urgent topic, department spokesman Robespierre Bolivar told reporters.

“The US apparently wants to consult allies and strategic partners in Asia to discuss an approach to the tensions over DPRK [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea],” Bolivar said.

“The discussion that transpired between the presidents was warm, with President Trump expressing his understanding and appreciation of the challenges facing the Philippine president, especially on the matter of dangerous drugs,” Abella said in a statement.

A White House statement described the call late on Saturday as “very friendly” and said the US-Philippine alliance “is now heading in a very positive direction.”

White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus said the friendlier ties are needed even with concerns about Duterte’s human rights record, which includes extrajudicial killings of suspected drug dealers and users as part of the government’s drug war, citing the military threat of North Korea.

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