MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte has threatened to bar two United States lawmakers who earlier called on US President Donald Trump to raise human rights concerns in the war on drugs when he meets with the tough-talking Filipino leader.
US Representatives Randy Hultgren and James McGovern has called on Trump to use his meeting with Duterte on the sidelines of the Association of Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit in Manila to “impress upon President Duterte the United States’ profound concern over reported extra-judicial killings associated with the Philippine government’s ‘war on drugs.’”
But Duterte is unfazed.
“Sabihin ko sa kanila, you are too presumptuous. What made you think that I am even planning or thinking about visiting your country?” Duterte said.
“And I’d like to know their names also because I can include them in the Immigration barred list. Totoo… If you do not like me, I do not like you. We’re even,” he said.
Hultgren and McGovern are co-chairs of the bipartisan Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission of the US Congress.
Reacting to the two lawmakers’ call, Duterte stressed that his war on drugs has only good intentions.
Asked whether he has plans to visit the US now that Trump, with whom he has “warm rapport” with, Duterte said he still has not changed his mind about going to the US.
The Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission in July conducted a hearing into the Philippines’ war on drugs, where human rights organizations urged the Philippine government to uphold the rule of law and respect human rights in its campaign.
Duterte and Trump were not likely to meet on the sidelines of the APEC Summit in Vietnam, but government officials are working on their first bilateral meeting in Manila during the ASEAN Summit.
Duterte stressed anew that he will tell Trump to “lay off” in case the latter brings up the human rights concerns linked to his war on drugs.
“I never criticized whatever happened to --- what, for whatever reason there sa America. But I criticized the State Department and Obama,” he said.
The administration has many times defended the war on drugs, saying it does not condone police abuses nor sanction 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 scaled back 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 public trust on the police.