MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday said he would not accept lecturing on human rights from world leaders, including United States President Donald Trump, as he is bent to assert the country's sovereignty at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit in Vietnam this week.
Duterte said this when asked to give a glimpse of the agenda of his possible bilateral meeting with Trump on the sidelines of the regional meet.
“As we meet there, we meet as sovereigns. I will not go there as a subservient lackey of anyone,” Duterte told reporters before he departed for Vietnam.
The President has drawn international condemnation over killings and alleged human rights abuses under his fierce anti-drug campaign.
In July, the human rights panel of the US House of Representatives initiated an investigation into "the human rights consequences of the ‘war on drugs’ currently underway in the Philippines."
“Lay off. That’s not your business. That is my business. I take care of my country and I will nurture my country to help,” Duterte added, referring to the possibility of human rights issues being raised during his meetings with world leaders, including Trump.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque earlier said the two leaders are not expected to have a heated discussion on human rights concerns in the Philippines’ war on drugs.
Roque explained that Trump is unlikely to confront Duterte on human rights issues related to the anti-narcotics campaign as the American leader himself is facing 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,” Roque told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour.
“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.”
Duterte's meeting with Trump in Vietnam comes ahead of their expected talks in Manila on the sidelines of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Summit later this month.
The Duterte administration has been criticized for the thousands of deaths linked to the war on drugs. It has asserted that it is not behind summary killings.
The government has said over 3,800 were killed in legitimate anti-illegal drug operations, while human rights groups peg the number of deaths at over 13,000.
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.