Trump’s White House Invite to Duterte Met with Disapproval


Manila, Philippines, 6 Sya’ban 1438/3 May 2017 (MINA) — US President Donald Trump’s invitation for President Rodrigo Duterte to visit the White House sent shock waves as analysts warned this could send the message that human rights take a back seat in Washington, Philstar reported.

Trump asked Duterte to visit the White House during a “very friendly” phone conversation on Saturday. White House chief of staff Reince Priebus said the call was for the US to talk to its ally, the Philippines, amid the threat of nuclear attacks from North Korea.

US security analyst John Kirby, who served as spokesman for the State and Defense departments under the Obama administration, said in a CNN opinion piece that the conversation was a missed opportunity to raise concerns about the manner Duterte is running the Philippines.

“Well, he got a call this weekend from President Trump, which, on the face of it , isn’t a bad thing. There’s a lot to talk about. Except the president doesn’t appear to have used this opportunity to raise any concerns about the manner in which Duterte is running his own country, violating the human rights of his own citizens or treating his best ally, the United States,” he said.

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The former State department executive said inviting the Philippine president to the White House, considered the People’s House, is “to raise him to the level of a statesman.”

“[A] level he doesn’t merit,” he said.

“[T]o give him the credence, the imprimatur, of a meeting in the White House—the People’s House—is to denigrate the rule of law and to spit in the face of the thousands of innocent Filipinos who have suffered under Duterte’s jackboot.”

Kirby added that it strains credulity to claim that the Philippines is vital to pressuring North Korea.

“Ally though they may be, and important though they are to our efforts to counter terrorist groups in the region and to decrease tensions with China in the South China Sea, the Republic of the Philippines boasts no diplomatic, economic or military throw weight in Northeast Asia.”

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Break of protocol

Trump’s invite to Duterte also breached diplomatic protocol as he did not inform the State department about it beforehand.

David Kramer, former assistant secretary of state for human rights during the George W. Bush administration, said the president of the United States could “do what he wants” when it comes to invitations to the White House.

However, he admitted that the manner it was extended was surprising.

“[I]t is a little unusual that this kind of invitation wouldn’t have been prepared ahead of time as part of his talking points. The reports indicate that it came as a surprise, not only to the State Department but to some people on the National Security Council and the White House as well.”

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Kirby said the invite sends a signal that Trump is not attaching much importance to human rights concerns.

Human rights monitors have condemned killings in Duterte’s war on drugs in which the death toll reached over 7,000, a number disputed by Philippine authorities .

“It’s absolutely appalling that the first substantive engagement that President Trump provides with President Duterte makes zero mention of the fact that President Duterte has inflicted an absolute human rights calamity on his country with the deaths of more than 7,000 people to date,” Phelim Kine, Human Rights Watch (HRW) deputy Asia director, said.

The HRW also criticized the Philippine president in July last year, tagging him a “cheerleader” for summary killings of criminal suspects.

“And to make the matters even worse, they top it off with an invitation, an honor to visit the White House. So, it’s an absolute abomination that the government thinks that this is appropriate,” he said. (T/RS05/RS01)

Mi’raj Islamic News Agency (MINA)