MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday met the top diplomats from Pacific allies United States and Australia, two countries critical of his war on drugs, but the issue on the human rights situation in the Philippines took a back seat in their talks to concerns over the growing terror threat in the region.
Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Monday made courtesy calls on Duterte in Malacañang as government troops continue to battle Islamist extremists in the Mindanao city of Marawi.
In a news conference, Duterte said his talks with the two top diplomats revolved “mostly” around terrorism.
Duterte said, the diplomats “have considerably toned down” their criticism of the human rights situation in the Philippines.
The firebrand leader has lashed out at critics of his war on drugs, including former U.S. President Barack Obama and Duterte's predecessor, Benigno Aquino III.
His administration has many times defended its drug war, saying reported figures of deaths- from 7,000 to 9,000- were overblown.
Latest Philippine National Police (PNP) data show that a total of 3,451 drug personalities were killed in anti-drug operations from July 1, 2016 to July 26, 2017 in presumed legitimate anti-drug operations.
The PNP has also determined that out of the 12,833 homicide cases from July 1, 2016 to June 16, 2017, 2,098 deaths were drug-related and 2,535 non-drug related. A total of 8,200 homicide cases were under investigation "with motives to be determined," the PNP earlier said.