In their first bilateral meeting in Manila, President Rodrigo Duterte and United States President Donald Trump both agreed that human rights and dignity of human life are “essential” amid immense criticism on the Philippine Chief Executive’s war on drugs.
“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,” said a joint statement released on Tuesday.
Human rights, however, was not directly addressed in the context of Duterte’s drug war. Instead, a discrete reference was made to the anti-drug campaign.
“The two sides discussed the ongoing campaign in the Philippines against criminality including illegal drugs,” it said.
“Both sides 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,” it added.
Criticized for not giving the human rights issues in the Philippines a greater importance, the US President has been strongly urged to face Duterte on his controversial drug war — a policy condemned by the former US President Barack Obama.
Duterte lambasted the US and even threatened to break ties with the country’s long-time ally as he was angered by Obama’s criticisms.
In contrary, Trump was friendly with the Philippine President, showering praises on Duterte, adding that the two leaders have a great relationship.
Since Duterte took office on June 30, 2016, the US, along with the United Nations and the European Union, have expressed concern on the drug suspect killings. Thousands have reportedly been killed in the administration’s war on drugs.
While they support the Philippines anti-drug campaign, the US, UN, and EU retained that Philippine authorities must observed due process and human rights as they carry out its operations.
Apart from this, the two presidents also discussed the ongoing humanitarian and security crisis in Rakhine State, Myanmar.
According to the joint statement, both leaders called for the expeditious delivery of humanitarian assistance to affected communities, and welcomed the Myanmar government’s commitment “to end violence, restore media access, ensure the safe return of displaced persons, and implement all of the recommendations of the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State, and urged all parties to support these government commitments.”
Duterte and Trump expressed their support for Association of Southeast Asian Nations’ role in working with the government of Myanmar to provide humanitarian assistance.
Also in the joint statement, both leaders agreed to have regular discussion under the US-Philippines Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA), and welcomed the Philippines’ interest in a bilateral free trade agreement (FTA).
They also acknowledged the strong “people-to-people connections” between the Philippines and the US.
“President Trump and President Duterte pledged to continue cooperating to promote the mutual goals of peace, stability, and prosperity in the Asia-Pacific region and around the world,” the statement added.