PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte does not have “authoritarian tendencies” and “adheres to fundamental human rights”, his spokesman said in an interview with CNN’s Christian Amanpour on Wednesday, local time.
“I am not ready to concede that the Philippine President has a tendency towards authoritarianism,” said Secretary Harry Roque when asked if Duterte has dictatorial tendencies like his counterpart Donald Trump.
Citing a bit of Philippine-American history, Roque said: “The Philippines, a former American colony, inherited the Constitution of the United States. The fact that we have followed the [cue from]Constitution of the United States which provides for check and balance among co-equal branches of government will belie the so-called [claims of]authoritarian tendencies,” Roque said.
Roque said that the President, being a lawyer, would know the law and would go for what was provided under the law.
“President Duterte is schooled in the law, including the American legal system, which has also inspired our Bill of Rights and the Constitution. The President has a very good grasp of American Constitution and values that adheres to [the law of]fundamental human rights,” Roque said.
Duterte and Trump will be holding a bilateral meeting in Manila next week on the sidelines of the 31st Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) Leaders Summit and the East Asia Summit.
Duterte has drawn flak from the international community, including the United States, in connection with about 12,500 people who died under the Duterte administration’s war on drugs.
Based on police accounts, at least 3,800 were killed in legitimate operations although some of the victims included children.
But Roque said that President Duterte’s war on drugs was not expected to be a “contentious issue” with the US president since he would be waging his own campaign, particularly against opioid.
“I don’t think it will be a contentious issue between the two Presidents because President Trump has said President Duterte has done the right thing in embarking on a war on drugs, and the US President also recently declared war vs. opioid—a serious threat that warrants special attention from American authorities,” Roque said.
“It was never the intention of President Duterte to conduct war on drugs that would violate the Constitution and fundamental human rights,” Roque, a former human rights lawyer, added.