Trump’s predecessor, President Barack Obama, had spoken out against the brutal strategy, and had thus incurred Duterte’s wrath. Duterte, in fact, referred to Obama as a “son of a bitch,” and in Trump’s simple-minded worldview, that makes the Philippine president a friend.
During Trump’s April 29 call with Duterte, he extended an invitation to visit him at the White House, and praised Duterte’s methods. The Philippine transcript of the call was circulated on Tuesday, under a “confidential” cover sheet, by the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs, report David E. Sanger and Maggie Haberman at The New York Times.Trump sounded “largely unconcerned about human rights violations,” reports The Times, as he was “congratulating Mr. Duterte for the government-sanctioned attacks on drug suspects.”
The program has been widely condemned worldwide because the “extrajudicial killings” have resulted in thousands of deaths without arrest or trial. The program was criticized in the State Department’s annual human rights report, which referred to “apparent governmental disregard for human rights and due process.”
“I just wanted to congratulate you because I am hearing of the unbelievable job on the drug problem,” Trump told Duterte, according to the transcript.“Many countries have the problem, we have the problem, but what a great job you are doing and I just wanted to call and tell you that,” Trump said to Duterte, according to a transcript published by The Washington Post.
After Duterte replied that drugs are “the scourge of my nation now and I have to do something to preserve the Filipino nation,” Trump took a swipe at Obama for condemning the killings and canceling a meeting with Duterte after the Philippines leader insulted him.
“I understand that and fully understand that and I think we had a previous president who did not understand that,” Trump said.In the White House’s official version of the call released in April, the administration had merely said Trump and Duterte “discussed the fact that the Philippine government is fighting very hard to rid its country of drugs,” reports Caitlin Macneal at Talking Points Memo.
The Trump Administration won’t “lecture” foreign governments on human rights, Trump said in Saudi Arabia this week on his first foreign trip.
According to the U.S. State Department’s 2016 Human Rights Report, which was updated in March, police and vigilantes in the Philippines have killed more than 6,000 suspected drug dealers and users since last July, the month after Duterte took office, reports Louis Nelson at Politico.An “apparent governmental disregard for human rights and due process” was one of the Philippines’ “most significant human rights problems,” according to the U.S. State Department.
Near the end of the call, Trump invited Duterte to the White House, calling him a “good man.””I will love to have you in the Oval Office,” Trump aid. “Any time you want to come … Seriously, if you want to come over, just let us know.””Keep up the good work,” Trump said to Duterte. “You are doing an amazing job.”