Duterte ready to defend drug war in meeting with Obama

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  • Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte is prepared to defend before U.S. President Barack Obama the ongoing deadly war against drugs in the Philippines.

    Duterte has declared that he is ready to discuss any issues with Obama when they meet at the sidelines of the East Asia Summit of the Association of Asian Nations (Asean).

    The Asean meeting is being hosted by Laos in the capital of Vientiane on September 6.

    Duterte said that he would demand that he be allowed to first explain the context of his merciless crackdown on the illegal drug trade before engaging the U.S. leader in a discussion of the human rights situation in the Philippines.

    The White House said on August 29 that Obama planned to raise U.S. concerns over the extrajudicial killings in Duterte’s war on drugs when they meet in Laos.

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

    More than 2,000 drug suspects have been killed, nearly half of them in police operations, since Duterte took office on June 30.

    On August 29, Duterte took the campaign a step further, placing a U.S.$43,000 bounty on the heads of so-called “ninja” cops who are thought to be protecting drug syndicates.

    Despite criticism from the U.S., UN, Human Rights Watch, and other rights groups, Duterte – nicknamed ‘The Punisher’ – has vowed to continue the campaign throughout his entire term, saying that drugs have infected “every nook and corner” of the Philippines.

    Responding to a statement from UN special rapporteur on summary executions Agnes Callamard, in which she urged the Philippines to halt extrajudicial executions and killings or face punishment for “illegal” acts, Duterte threatened to leave the organization.

    “I don’t give a shit about [the UN],” he said. “They are the ones interfering. You do not just go out and give a shitting [sic] statement against a country.”

    Duterte promised in the presidential election campaign that he will immediately launch a drive to kill tens of thousands of criminals and stamp out illegal drugs within six months of his presidency.

    Duterte said on August 31 that he was willing to discuss the rights situation with Obama, noting, “It depends at what degree.”

    “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.

    Criticism by the U.S. government, UN rights experts and human rights groups over the extrajudicial killings have provoked angry outbursts from 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 U.S. had failed to stop the killings of African-Americans by white police.

    The U.S. 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 Duterte’s “recent statements” when they meet.

    It was a reference to Mr. Duterte’s lashing out at U.S. Ambassador Philip Goldberg, branding him a “gay son of a bitch”.

    The White House said, however, that there were also important security issues for Obama and 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.

    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.

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