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Obama 'won't pull punches' on human rights in talks with Duterte

MANILA, Philippines – US President Barack Obama "is certainly not going to pull any punches" on human rights during his upcoming meeting with Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said.

Referring to Obama, Earnest said in an interview with reporters on Wednesday, August 31, "I think the President is going to speak quite directly about our shared interests with the Philippines."

"Both countries benefit from effective cooperation on a variety of issues, including maritime security.  But the President is certainly not going to pull any punches in raising well-documented and relevant concerns when it comes to human rights," Earnest added.

He explained that Obama is known not just for his ability "but willingness to speak bluntly – even on those issues where there might be some daylight between the United States and our allies."

During this interview with reporters, a journalist also remarked that Duterte is "quite an unorthodox politician that can be quite unpredictable in some of the things that he says."

Earnest answered, "That’s putting it mildly."

The meeting between Duterte and Obama is expected to take place on Tuesday, September 6, on the sidelines of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations t (ASEAN) Summit and related Summits in Vientiane, Laos.

The agenda of their meeting includes not only human rights issues, but also the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) dispute.

On human rights, Duterte said Obama has to first "understand" the situation on the ground before they can discuss the issue.

"I would insist, 'Listen to me, this is what the problem is,' then we can talk about that. No problem," Duterte said on Wednesday. (READ: Duterte willing to talk human rights with Obama? 'It depends')

Their meeting on Tuesday comes after the US released a list of concerns under the Duterte administration.

The US concerns include the rise of extrajudicial killings and Duterte calling US Ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg "gay" and "a son of a bitch." – Rappler.com

Paterno R. 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 pat.esmaquel@rappler.com.

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