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Jakarta Post

Philippines' Duterte all smiles as he meets Trump

  • News Desk


Manila   /   Mon, November 13, 2017   /   11:45 am
Philippines' Duterte all smiles as he meets Trump US President Donald Trump shakes hands with Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte during a special gala celebration dinner for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in Manila on Nov.12. World leaders arrive in the Philippines' capital for two days of summits beginning on Nov.13. (Athit Perawongmetha/Pool/AFP)

Donald Trump shook hands Monday with a smiling Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, a man who boasts about personally killing people and who is waging a drug war that rights groups say involves mass murder.

The US leader is in Manila with leaders of 18 other nations for two days of summits, the final leg of a headline-grabbing Asian tour dominated by the North Korean nuclear crisis.

Allegations of Russian meddling in last year's US presidential elections have also hounded the second half of his 12-day trip, which took him from Japan to South Korea, China and Vietnam.

Rights groups have called on Trump to end his Asian journey with a strong statement against Duterte's drugs war, which has seen police and suspected vigilantes kill thousands of people.

But brief encounters between them in the lead-up to official talks scheduled for late Monday morning appeared to support Duterte's confidence that Trump was not concerned with the killings.

Trump shook hands with Duterte, then the pair chatted for about 30 seconds as the Philippine leader smiled broadly, before the opening ceremony for the first summit on Monday morning. Trump had his back to the cameras.

The pair also sat next to each other at a pre-summit banquet on Sunday, during which they smiled, chatted and clinked champagne glasses.

Duterte, 72, sang a Filipino love song in front of his audience at the banquet, saying in a light-hearted fashion that he did so on the orders of the US president.

"I'm sure he will not take it up," Duterte said on Sunday when asked whether he expected Trump to raise the issue of alleged extra-judicial killings in the drugs war.

Duterte won elections last year after promising to eradicate illegal drugs with an unprecedented campaign that would see up to 100,000 people killed.

Since he took office, police have reported killing 3,967 people in the crackdown.  

Another 2,290 people have been murdered in drug-related crimes, while thousands of other deaths remain unsolved, according to government data.

Many Filipinos back Duterte, believing he is taking necessary measures to fight crime, but rights groups warn he may be orchestrating a crime against humanity.

Amnesty International accuses police of shooting dead defenceless people and paying assassins to murder addicts.