Tillerson expected to raise human rights with Duterte: Cayetano

Christian V. Esguerra, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 04 2017 03:14 PM | Updated as of Aug 04 2017 03:38 PM

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (File) June 13, 2017. Reuters /Aaron P. Bernstein

MANILA - The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Friday said it is open to discuss human rights issues with United States Secretary of State Rex Tillerson should the top diplomat raise the matter during his trip to Manila this week.

"We understand that it is part of their duty as government officials to talk about human rights, not only with the Philippines but with the rest of the world, because they are accountable to their Congress and their press as they advance their values and interests," the DFA said in a statement.

"We welcome the opportunity to address their concerns and correct the perceptions they may have gleaned from exaggerated media reports," the foreign office said, an apparent reference to US expressions of concern over reported human rights abuses in the administration’s war on drugs. 

Tillerson is set to travel to Manila to participate in diplomatic meetings with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the regional bloc's other dialogue partners.

His visit comes just weeks since the US House of Representatives’ human rights commission held a hearing on alleged extrajudicial killings under Duterte’s war on drugs. 

The administration has several times defended the drug war, saying it does not sanction executions of drug suspects. 

Despite President Rodrigo Duterte’s tough rhetoric against the US amid the country’s warming ties with non-traditional allies such as China and Russia, the DFA said Washington will remain Manila's steady partner. 

"The Philippines is one of their oldest partners in the region and there are a lot of things included in our agenda. These discussions are all aimed at strengthening the old friendship between the two countries," the foreign office said. 

Tillerson and his Filipino counterparts are also expected to discuss the security situation in war-torn Marawi City, where US forces have been providing technical assistance and hardware to support the military in flushing out remaining Islamic State-linked terrorists, the DFA said.