President Trump invited President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines to the White House after having a “very friendly conversation with Mr. Duterte” on Saturday. According to a statement issued by the White House, the two “discussed the fact that the Philippines is fighting very hard to rid its country of drugs.”
Since he was elected President last May, Duterte has championed a campaign that is responsible for the extrajudicial killing of thousands of people.
“To host President Duterte at the White House is to endorse his deadly drug war policies,” said Michael Collins, Deputy Director at Drug Policy Alliance’s Office of National Affairs. “The Trump Administration should immediately withdraw its invitation to Duterte and publicly denounce the mass killings he has advocated for, or risk embarrassing the country with the sight of the U.S. President greeting a remorseless, self-confessed murderer.”
In December 2016, an advisor to Trump’s transition team on security policy said that the president-elect would start a “clean slate” with Duterte “without being wedded to previous policy failures.” Days later, President Trump praised Duterte for his efforts and The New York Times ran a feature piece documenting the homicide victims of Duterte’s brutal drug war.
Duterte has repeatedly shown complete disregard for due process or human rights. In his call for the murder of people who use or sell drugs, he promised medals for citizens who comply, and pardons for police if they are charged with human rights violations while carrying out the executions. He has even likened himself to Hitler. These extrajudicial killings have largely claimed the lives of the country’s most marginalized and vulnerable citizens, including those who are unemployed or underemployed.
Despite international calls for Duterte to end the extrajudicial killings, he has refused to change direction, responding to anyone who has questioned his anti-drug strategy with insults, including former President Obama, the Pope, the International Criminal Court and the United Nations. He has also threatened to kill human rights defenders who attempt to intervene in his war on drugs.
While Trump is embracing the horrific approach taken by the president of the Philippines, he is also doubling down on the failed drug war here in the U.S. both in his rhetoric and his appointments, most notably Jeff Sessions as Attorney General.