US PRESIDENT Barack Obama will meet President Rodrigo Duterte to discuss alleged human rights violations in connection with the Philippine government’s war against illegal drugs, during a regional summit in Laos in September, the White House said on Monday (Tuesday in Manila).
Obama will also raise concerns over certain statements made by Duterte when they cross paths in next week’s East Asia summit in Vientiane, Laos, to be held at the sidelines of the annual meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
“We regularly meet with the leaders of our treaty allies where we have differences whether it relates to human rights practices or derogatory comments. We take the opportunity of those meetings to raise those issues directly,” White House Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes said in a news conference in Washington.
“I think the discussion will encompass both concerns about statements that have been made by the President of the Philippines and our commitment to supporting human rights,” he added.
Duterte has drawn international criticism overseas for the wave of killings of drug suspects, which have reached close to 1,900 since he assumed office on June 30.
The US State Department has raised the matter with the Philippines twice this month.
In a news briefing in Manila, presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said on Tuesday Duterte’s first international engagement will primarily be for establishing acquaintances.
Asked if the President would be open to discussing human rights with Obama, Abella said, “This is not … We’re not referring to those matters. Okay?”
Duterte on Monday dismissed his critics, pointing out that he should not be compared with Syrian dictator Bashar Al-Assad, who is accused of various atrocities and crimes against humanity, and the Islamic State.
“Did I kill a child? Did I drop bombs like Assad and those other idiots? Did I burn women who refuse to have sex?” the President said during the National Heroes’ Day rites at the Libingan ng mga Bayani in Taguig.
Rhodes said Obama would also discuss with Duterte the tension in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea), among other security issues.