Politicians and human rights advocates are slamming President Donald Trump for cozying up to Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte.
President Trump has invited Duterte to Washington DC — and democratic leaders including House Democratic Caucus Chairman representative Joe Crowley have questioned Trump’s move, pointing out that Duterte is a leader that supports a violent crackdown on drug suspects.
Human rights advocates are also weighing in on this issue.
Rodrigo Duterte has been called the Donald Trump of the east.
The 71-year-old Duterte and the 70-year-old US president were both the oldest to assume presidencies in their respective countries.
Both ran populist campaigns, and their surprise victories were stunning political upsets against much more seasoned opponents.
They both publicly professed their admiration for Russian president Vladimir Putin, and their mutual admiration is also no secret.
Duterte was among the international leaders who congratulated Trump after he won the US elections last November.
“I would like to congratulate Trump mabuhay ka, pareho tayo nagmumura, konting rason lang mura kaagad, pare-pareho kami,” he said.
But when Trump invited the Philippine strongman to the White House over the weekend, controversy escalated quickly.
Duterte has not formally accepted the invitation, but Human Rights Watch says “the US has an obligation to urge accountability for the victims of Duterte’s abusive drug war – rather than offer to roll out the red carpet at the White House.
HRW’s Phelim Kline said: “Duterte is pursuing a murderous war against the poor that has resulted in the brutally violent deaths of thousands of Filipinos… he has been an enthusiastic cheerleader for those killings.”
MSNBC’s Steve Benen referred to Duterte as a “murderous autocrat” who is not worthy of a White House reception.
White House press secretary Sean Spicer defended Trump’s decision to invite the Philippine president.
“I think it is an opportunity for us to work with countries in that region that can help play a role in diplomatically and economically isolating North Korea,” Spicer said. “But the number one concern of this President is to make sure that we do everything we can to protect our people, and specifically to economically and diplomatically isolate North Korea.”
Some Filipinos in New York say the Philippines may not have the military capability to fight North Korea alongside the US, but the Philippine’s strategic location in Asia could be one reason the US wants to partner with Duterte.
“For me, the idea that do we have the capacity or not is not the question that we wanna ask, right? The question that we wanna ask is, do we want to be part of an invasion? That is the question that we wanna ask,” commented Melanie Dulfo from NAFCON NY.
“We don’t want to be another tool for attacking other countries,” said Mike Legazpi from Anakbayan NY. “In WWII, the Korean war, Vietnam war and so on, we’ve been a training ground, a launching pad for the US military… we want to assert Philippine sovereignty.”
President Duterte expressed his views about the US, and North Korean leaders playing with what he called their “nuclear toys,” just before taking Trump’s phone call last weekend.
“Who am I to say that you should stop… but I will say just Mr. President, please see to it that there is no war, because my region will suffer immensely. The first, the first fall out would be ASEAN, Asia, very near, very dangerous.”
While critics are urging Trump not to let the so called “murderous Philippine autocrat” into the White house…
President Duterte has expressed the Philippines’ need for US help, when it comes to China’s so-called bullying in the South China Sea.
The question now is, will Duterte accept Trump’s invitation to the White House, in exchange for US help in handling the Philippines’ territorial dispute with China? That remains to be seen.