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Palace dismisses criticism on Trump invitation to Duterte

MANILA, Philippines – Did US President Donald Trump invite a "mass murderer" to the White House when he asked Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte over for a visit?

As far as Malacañang is concerned, Trump didn't see Duterte that way.

Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella based this assessment on the latest phone conversation between the two leaders. He said in a news briefing on Tuesday, May 2, that judging from the discussion of the two leaders, Trump did not associate Duterte with human rights violations.

"According to the conversation, the President of the United States has already acknowledged the fact that the President is doing a great job considering the weight and the enormity of the conditions in the Philippines," said Abella.

Asked about the call of some groups, including the United Nations, for Trump to express concern over the extrajudicial killings linked to Duterte's drug war, Abella said he was sure the US leader had his own take on the issue.

"I’m sure he’s aware of all these considerations. However, from his point of view, it seems like the President of the Philippines is doing a sensible job," said Duterte's spokesman.

Trump's invitation for Duterte to visit the White House is a sign of "openness and understanding" between them, Abella said.

US Senator Benjamin Cardin, a ranking member of the Senate foreign relations committee, had demanded that Trump "immediately rescind" his invitation to Duterte, in light of the reported human rights violations in the Philippine leader's anti-drugs campaign.

Cardin said: "I am deeply disturbed by President Trump’s cavalier invitation to President Duterte to visit the White House. This is a man who has boasted publicly about killing his own citizens."

Cardin had also threatened to block the sale of certain US weapons to the Philippine National Police as a consequence of Duterte's "barbaric" actions.

Duterte himself said he could not yet confirm if he could accept Trump's invitation any time soon since he has other foreign trips scheduled, including trips to Russia and Israel.

The White House described the Saturday night conversation between the leaders as "very friendly." The phone call dealt largely with North Korea's nuclear and ballistic missile tests.

Duterte earlier called on the US and North Korea to "show restraint" given the consequences to Southeast Asia, in particular, which is within range of North Korea's missiles.

Trump and Duterte are expected to meet each other during the 31st ASEAN Summit and Related Meetings in the Philippines in November. – Rappler.com

 

Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.

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