Today, U.S. President Donald Trump celebrated his “great relationship” with President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines, who is responsible for waging a brutal war on drugs that has killed thousands of people.
Upon assuming the presidency in May of 2016, Duterte called for the murder of people who use or sell drugs, promising medals for citizens who comply and pardons for police if they are charged with human rights violations while carrying out the executions. Since then, estimates for the number of people killed in Duterte’s drug war range from 7,000 up to 14,000. These extrajudicial killings have largely claimed the lives of the country’s most marginalized and vulnerable citizens, including those who are unemployed or underemployed.
Today, Trump and Duterte had their first in-person meeting on the sidelines of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit in the Philippines. According to Duterte’s spokesperson, when Duterte spoke of the “drug menace” in his country during their bilateral meeting today, Trump did not broach the topic of human rights or express any concerns about Duterte’s drug war.
This is not the first time Trump has offered praise to Duterte. In April, Trump invited Duterte to the White House and commended Duterte for “fighting hard” to rid the Philippines of drugs.
Last Thursday, in advance of the ASEAN Summit, over 270 non-governmental organizations, political leaders, and human rights advocates released a joint statement calling on world leaders attending the ASEAN Summit to demand an end to the killings in the Philippines, a respect for human rights, and a process of accountability, starting with a United Nations-led investigation.
Below is a statement from Maria McFarland Sánchez-Moreno, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance:
“Trump’s silence in the face of the massive bloodshed under Duterte speaks volumes about his own craven approach to drug policy. Trump has not pushed for executions of people who use drugs, but he is—like Duterte—using drugs as a way to stoke fear among his supporters, and as an excuse for ramping up draconian criminal justice and immigration policies in the US. His ‘great’ relationship with Duterte is yet another chilling sign that the life, rights, and wellbeing of vulnerable people are not high on his list of priorities, including when it comes to the war on drugs.”