MANILA, Philippines — Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he raised concerns about human rights and extrajudicial killings in the Philippines when he met Tuesday with President Rodrigo Duterte, whose war on drugs has earned widespread condemnation for leaving thousands of suspects dead.
Trudeau told a news conference he mentioned the issue to Duterte in a meeting before Canada’s summit in the Philippines with the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
Trudeau is the first leader out of the 20 attending this week’s ASEAN summit and related meetings who has publicly said he brought up the touchy issue with the volatile Filipino leader.
“I also mentioned human rights, the rule of law and specifically extrajudicial killings as being an issue that Canada is concerned with,” he said at the news conference. “I impressed on him the need for respect for the rule of law, and as always offered Canada’s support and help as a friend to move forward on what is a real challenge.”
He said it comes as no surprise that he brought up the issue of human rights because it is something people expect of Canada and is important to Canadians and the world. Duterte was receptive to his comments and their exchange was cordial and positive, Trudeau said.
Duterte is sensitive to such criticism, and in the past called then U.S. President Barack Obama a “son of a bitch” after the State Department publicly expressed concern over the Philippine anti-drug campaign.
President Donald Trump, who also attended this week’s ASEAN summit, did not publicly take Duterte to task for the drug crackdown. Instead, Trump said he and Duterte “had a great relationship,” and avoided questions about whether he raised human rights concerns in a meeting with the Philippine leader.
The White House later said they discussed the Islamic State group, illegal drugs and trade during the 40-minute meeting. Press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said human rights came up “briefly” in the context of the Philippines’ fight against illegal drugs. She did not say if Trump was critical of Duterte’s program.
Harry Roque, Duterte’s spokesman, said there was no mention of human rights or extralegal killings during the meeting with Trump, but there was a lengthy discussion of the Philippines’ war on drugs, with Duterte doing most of the explaining.
The two sides later issued a statement saying they “underscored that human rights and the dignity of human life are essential, and agreed to continue mainstreaming the human rights agenda in their national programs.”