U.S. House rights body urges Trump to confront Duterte on EJKs

November 9, 2017 - 6:48 AM
U.S. President Donald Trump and President Rodrigo Duterte

MANILA, Philippines — A bipartisan human rights body of the U.S. House of Representatives is urging President Donald Trump to confront President Rodrigo Duterte about the thousands of killings that have marked the Philippine government’s war on drugs.

The two heads of state are expected to meet during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Vietnam this week and again at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit in Manila next week.

The November 2 letter from Representatives Randy Hultgren, a Republican from Illinois, and James P. McGovern, a Democrat from Masssachusetts, who co-chair the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, asked Trump to “impress upon President Duterte the United States’ profound concern” over the drug war killings.

However, presidential spokesman Harry Roque said it is unlikely Trump will raise the issue of human rights should he meet Duterte, noting that the U.S. leader has not only praised his Philippine counterpart’s war on drugs but is also confronting a growing opioid epidemic.

He also said the two heads of state are “very much alike in their thinking, language and demeanor.”

While acknowledging “the strategic importance of maintaining our strong partnership with the Philippines, especially amid rising tensions in the region over North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs and Chinese territorial sovereignty issues involving the South China Sea,” the U.S. lawmakers nevertheless stressed that “the United States must remain a champion of human rights, due process, and the rule of law.”

The U.S. House panel conducted a hearing on the killings earlier this year where “we were distressed to learn that police have killed 7,000 alleged drug dealers and users without charges or trial since the Philippine government launched its campaign against illicit drugs.”