MANILA - Malacañang on Tuesday said President Rodrigo Duterte and United States President Donald Trump are “very much alike,” and are not likely to collide on human rights issues stemming from the Filipino leader’s controversial war on drugs.
The 2 controversial heads of state are expected to meet for the first time this week during the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit in Da Nang, Vietnam, and again in Manila for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit.
In an interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour, Roque said the 2 leaders are not expected to have a heated discussion with regard to human rights concerns in the Philippines’ war on drugs.
“I guess it’s going to be very interesting because you have two individuals who are very much alike in their thinking, language and demeanor,” Roque said of the impending first meeting between the two leaders.
Roque said Trump is unlikely to confront Duterte on human rights issues related to the war on drugs as the American leader himself is confronting a growing opioid crisis at home.
“I don’t think it will be a contentious point between the 2 presidents. To begin with, Trump has said that President Duterte has done the right thing in embarking on this war on drugs,” he said.
“There was a similar declaration [from Trump] that… opioid constitutes a serious threat, that it warrants a special attention on the part of American authorities. There are parallels with the policies adopted by the two presidents as far as drugs is concerned.”
Roque also stressed that Duterte has no authoritarian tendencies and fully respects the law.
“The president is a lawyer and a public prosecutor. It was never his intention to conduct a war on drugs that would violate the Constitution and human rights,” he said.
“I cannot predict what the US president will do [when he meets Duterte]. All I’m saying is that Philippine President Duterte is schooled in the law and our legal tradition is very much influenced by the American legal system, particularly our laws on the bill of rights and the Constitution.”
Duterte recently dialed down his campaign against illegal drugs, tapping the smaller Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency as the lead government body to enforce the campaign and relegating the police force to a supporting role. This amid recent surveys showing a slide in his satisfaction and trust ratings and an eroding trust on the police.