Trump Invites Philippine President to White House, Despite Human Rights Violations

By Kelly Burch 05/02/17

Trump's shocking invitation has been met with a wave of backlash from human rights groups and beyond.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte Photo via YouTube

President Trump has invited Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte to the White House after having “a friendly conversation” with the notorious leader accused of violating human rights by waging a deadly war on drug users throughout his country. 

The two presidents “discussed the fact that the Philippines is fighting very hard to rid its country of drugs,” according to a White House statement that was reported in The New York Times

Duterte has been associated with a deadly war on drug users that has claimed more than 7,000 lives since June. Nearly 3,000 of those deaths happened during confrontations with police, while many more were reportedly assassinations that the police turned a blind eye to. 

Duterte has spoken harshly about drug users in the past, and it wouldn't be a stretch to say that he has encouraged the violence in his country. 

“Please feel free to call us, the police, or do it yourself if you have the gun—you have my support," he said last year, after he took office in June. "Shoot [them] and I'll give you a medal.”

The Philippine president has even admitted to personally murdering drug users in the city of Davao, where he was mayor. “I used to do it personally,” he said. “Just to show to the [police officers] that if I can do it, why can’t you?”

Human rights advocates continue to voice their objections. “By essentially endorsing Duterte’s murderous war on drugs, Trump is now morally complicit in future killings,” John Sifton, the Asia advocacy director of Human Rights Watch, told The New York Times. “Although the traits of his personality likely make it impossible, Trump should be ashamed of himself.”

Duterte’s spokesperson, Ernesto Abella, said that Trump had voiced “his understanding and appreciation of the challenges facing the Philippine president, especially on the matter” of drugs.

Trump called several Asian leaders over the weekend to talk about many issues, including tensions with North Korea. The prime ministers of Singapore and Thailand were also invited to the White House. 

However, Duterte’s associated with violence and human rights violations make him a controversial figure. Now, his invitation for Duterte to visit Washington, D.C. has shocked people in the administration and beyond. 

Duterte has yet to accept the invitation. According to CBS SF-Bay Area, he told reporters in south Davao city that he may not be able to go to the White House because he was "tied up."

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Kelly Burch writes about addiction and mental health issues, particularly as they affect families. Follow her on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn.