Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte advised President Donald Trump against calling him out for human rights violations as his predecessor did.
“You want to ask a question, I’ll give you an answer. Lay off,” Duterte told reporters Wednesday before departing for Vietnam. “That is not your business. That is my business. I take care of my country and I will nurture my country to health.”
The bombastic leader has been waging a bloody war on drugs since he took power last year, and thousands of Filipinos have perished. Former President Barack Obama’s administration was critical of this anti-narcotics campaign, raising concerns about extrajudicial killings and severe human rights violations. In response, Duterte railed against Obama, calling him a “son of a whore” and also telling him he can “go to hell.”
It is unclear whether Trump will follow in Obama’s footsteps on this issue.
After Trump and Duterte spoke on the phone in May, the president said his Filipino counterpart was doing an “unbelievable job on the drug problem.” The White House, however, has suggested the issue of human rights could come up during the president’s visit to the Philippines.
Bilateral relations between the U.S. and the Philippines have dramatically improved since Trump took office. Under the previous administration, Duterte, the leader of a long-time U.S. ally, declared his “separation from America,” but he appears to be responding positively to the Trump administration. “I am your humble friend,” the Philippine president told Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in August.
Duterte thanked the U.S. in September for its assistance in a bloody fight against Muslim militants with ties to the Islamic State. “Without their help, we would be having a hard time. Thank you,” he said.
The issue of human rights in the Philippines is complicated as violations run contrary to American values, but expressing dissatisfaction with the Filipino leadership could negatively impact an important regional alliance. The president has, so far, handled his trips to Japan, South Korea, and China without incident. The world will have to wait and see what he decides to do in the Philippines.
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