President Trump failed to publicly censure his Philippine counterpart for waging a bloody drug crackdown as the two bombastic leaders met again in Manila.
Trump repeatedly dodged questions on whether he would confront President Rodrigo Duterte on the thousands of extrajudicial killings during the Association of Southeast Asian Nations conference.
At one point, Duterte spoke for him when reporters demanded to know if Trump raised the topic of human rights.
“Whoa, whoa,” Duterte said from the Philippine International Convention Center on Monday afternoon. “This is not a press statement. This is the bilateral meeting.”
Duterte then referred to the traveling pool of reporters as “spies,” garnering a hearty laugh from Trump.
Trump raises his glass to Duterte and his partner, Honeylet Avancena.
(JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders provided a one-sentence readout of the bilateral talks that states human rights were briefly mentioned — but only when Trump and Duterte discussed the Philippine drug problem.
Sanders provided no further details on the nature of that conversation or if Trump expressed criticism about Duterte’s deadly drug war like his predecessor, President Barack Obama.
Duterte spokesman Harry Roque later contradicted the White House’s version of events and said human rights and extrajudicial killings were never discussed.
Roque said the President “seemed to be appreciative” when Duterte explained at length his handling of the nation’s struggle with drugs.
The former real estate mogul came face-to-face with the self-professed killer for the first time at a weekend APEC meetup in Vietnam — a day after Duterte reflected on his troublesome teenage years.
The future leader claims he stabbed someone to death because he didn’t like the way the victim looked at him. Duterte has already said that he fatally shot three people while serving as the mayor of Davao City.
Duterte’s penchant for violence is evident in the brazen war on drugs, which has human rights activists alarmed. At least 3,000 people have been killed at the hands of police and vigilantes, but activists fear that death toll could be closer to 9,000.
In his first phone call with Duterte as President, Trump flattered the Filipino leader for his handling of the drug war, according to a leaked transcript.
Trump shakes hands with Duterte during the 31st Association of Southeast Asian Nations Summit in Manila.
(NOEL CELIS/AFP/Getty Images)
That praise carried over to Trump’s opening remarks at the conference. He peppered his speech with compliments for Duterte, his hospitality and the country’s weather.
“We’ve had a great relationship,” Trump said Monday.
Just the night before, Duterte crooned a Filipino love song “on the orders of U.S. President Donald Trump” during a gala for the 19 leaders.
“Your are the light of my world, a half of this heart of mine,” Duterte sang, over the sound of clinking silverware.
Both men wore matching cream-colored barongs, a traditional dress shirt for Filipino men.
With News Wire Services