Philippines, U.S. give conflicting statements on Duterte-Trump meeting

Paterno Esmaquel II
Philippines, U.S. give conflicting statements on Duterte-Trump meeting
'Human rights briefly came up in the context of the Philippines' fight against illegal drugs,' says White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders, contradicting an earlier statement from Malacañang

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines and the United States contradicted each other on Monday, November 13, about whether US President Donald Trump raised human rights issues in his meeting with Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte. 

“Human rights briefly came up in the context of the Philippines’ fight against illegal drugs,” said White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders, according to reports.

Sanders said the two leaders’ bilateral meeting on Monday, however, focused on the terrorist Islamic State, illegal drugs, and trade.

Philippine Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque sang a different tune in a statement Monday afternoon.

“The issue of human rights did not arise. It was not brought up,” Roque said.

“It was President Duterte who brought up with President Trump the drug menace in the Philippines, and the US president appeared sympathetic and did not have any official position on the matter but was merely nodding his head,” Roque said.

White House comment ‘fair’

Based on Roque’s statement, human rights advocates already said Trump’s silence on Duterte’s drug war is “dismaying.”

Duterte has slammed the US for criticizing human rights abuses in his war on drugs, but has established rapport with Trump, a leader seen to have the same temperament. (READ: Rule of law best way to fight drug problem – Trump adviser)

On Monday evening, Roque reacted to reports that the White House gave a statement that contradicted Malacañang.

He said the White House comment was “fair” in so far as Duterte “described the war versus drugs as promoting” human rights. 

Roque said it was mentioned, for one, “that no one was killed in a kneeling position.” (READ: PNP, PAO agree: Kian kneeling when killed)

Duterte’s spokesman quoted Trump as saying the Philippines “follows the rule of law” in the war on drugs. But there was “no express mention” of human rights or extrajudicial killings, Roque said. –

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Paterno Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He obtained his MA Journalism degree from Ateneo and later finished MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at