MANILA – The Presidents of the United States and the Philippines underscored on Tuesday the importance of respecting life and human rights but avoided mentioning the violent “war on drugs” in the Asian country.
“The two sides underscored that human rights and the dignity of human life are essential, and agreed to continue mainstreaming the human rights agenda in their national programs to promote the welfare of all sectors, including the most vulnerable groups,” Donald Trump and Rodrigo Duterte said in a joint statement, released a day after their bilateral meeting in Manila.
During their meeting on Monday, Duterte presented Trump with the achievements of his anti-drug campaign which, according to official figures, has caused 6,000 deaths in the country – other estimates put the figure at over 7,000, of which some 4,000 were at the hands of the police, and has reduced crime by over a third in 16 months.
In one of its 14 points, the statement said that both leaders “acknowledged that illegal drug use is a problem afflicting both countries and committed to share best practices in the areas of prevention, enforcement, including capacity-building and transparency in investigations and rehabilitation.”
The first meeting between Trump and Duterte had generated a lot of expectations as several organizations had asked the US leader to rebuke his Philippine counterpart for human rights violations in his war on drugs.
However, this was considered unlikely as in a telephone conversation in May, Trump had openly praised the achievements of the bloody anti-drug campaign in tackling crime.
The meeting, which also focused on matters including the Islamic State terror organization and trade, took place on the sidelines of the two-day Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit, which will end in Manila on Tuesday.
The summit will culminate with the East Asia Summit, which will include Australia, the United States, India and Russia, in addition to the ten ASEAN countries.