Malacañang on Tuesday dismissed a reported contradiction between statements of President Rodrigo Duterte and Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop when the two met last week in Davao City.
“There was no contradiction between the Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and the Philippine President, just a difference in perspective,” presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said in a statement on Tuesday.
The Palace official noted that Duterte and Bishop had “a productive dialogue,” which emphasized “possible areas of constructive cooperation on the war against illegal drugs.”
“[But] [the President]did not deem it sufficient to mention it as having been discussed,” Abella said, referring to the human rights issue.
“On the whole, the meeting was positive and just affirmed the growing Philippine-Australia relations,” he added.
Reports earlier quoted Duterte as saying that he never discussed human rights with Bishop during their meeting in Davao City on Friday.
“They are so courteous. Maybe alam nila [they know]. Because if you say that, if you utter those things in my presence, you’ll get an insult. So what we did was to discuss transnational crimes, terrorism,” the President said. “Nobody but nobody, not even the United States, ever, ever opened up the human rights in front of me.”
Bishop, however, later told the media that she visited Duterte to tell him about Australia’s concerns in upholding human rights.
In a statement to Fairfax Media, she said they “discussed the country’s anti-drug campaign at length.”
“I conveyed Australian and international concerns with respect to extrajudicial killings and spoke of the importance we attach to human rights and the rule of law,” Bishop was quoted as saying.
Abella earlier said Duterte and Bishop discussed terrorism, violent extremism, as well as maritime safety and freedom of navigation and overflight.
He added that Australia pledged $40 million for the Mindanao peace process, while Duterte expressed interest in learning about responsible mining from Australia. CATHERINE S. VALENTE