MANILA—Malacañang on Tuesday dismissed the seemingly contradictory statements issued by President Rodrigo Duterte and Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop regarding human rights issues in the Philippines, saying it was “just a difference in perspective.”
“There was no contradiction between the Australian official and the Philippine president, just a difference in perspective,” Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella said in a statement.
“Since they had a productive dialogue which emphasized possible areas of constructive cooperation on the war against illegal drugs, the President did not deem it sufficient to mention as having been discussed,” the Palace official stressed.
Bishop paid a courtesy call on President Duterte in Davao City on Friday.
Pressed during a briefing in Davao City before going to Myanmar on Sunday, Duterte said he and Bishop did not discuss human rights, and instead delved into “transnational crimes and terrorism.”
Later, Abella said that Duterte and Bishop discussed terrorism, violent extremism, as well as maritime safety and freedom of navigation and overflight.
He added that Australia had pledged USD 40 million for the Mindanao peace process, while Duterte expressed interest in learning about responsible mining from Australia.
“On the whole, the meeting was positive and just affirmed the growing Philippine-Australia relations,” Abella said.
But in a statement to Fairfax Media published Monday on The Sydney Morning Herald, Bishop said that she and Duterte discussed the Philippine government’s anti-drug campaign at length.
“I conveyed Australian and international concerns with respect to extrajudicial killings and spoke of the importance we attach to human rights and the rule-of-law,” Bishop said.
However, in the same pre-departure briefing Sunday, President Duterte had repeatedly stressed that in the war against illegal drugs, the government just follow the rules provided for by law.
“And if you are a criminal and you are caught in the act, do not fight because if you place the guy’s (government forces) life — place it in jeopardy of losing it, my order is to shoot you,” he said.
“The only thing really to do is just to surrender with your hands raised up. But there will never be a time that I will condone killing with a criminal or a person arrested with arms straight up begging for his life — or what would popularly be known as extrajudicial killing,” Duterte said.