Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks with the media after participating in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit in Manila, Philippines, Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2017. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press via AP)
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Tuesday said he raised concerns over human rights and extrajudicial killings (EJKs) in the Philippines with President Rodrigo Duterte, becoming the only world leader to tackle the sensitive issues skirted by almost all the others during a regional summit in Manila.
“As I mentioned to President Duterte, we are concerned with human rights, with the extrajudicial killings, impressed upon him the need for respect for the rule of law and as always offered Canada’s support and help as a friend to help move forward on what is the real challenge,” Trudeau told reporters.
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“This is the way we engage with the world. This is the way we always will,” he said.
“We know that talking about human rights is an essential part for a path forward. It has to be done in an honest and frank way. But it has to be done. We have to talk about the high expectations we must have to protect life, to uphold the rule of law, and human rights,” he said.
Trudeau’s comments came a day after US President Donald Trump hailed the “great relationship” he enjoyed with Mr. Duterte in a meeting that Malacañang said did not touch on human rights.
Ahead of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) Summit in Manila, rights groups had urged world leaders to challenge Mr. Duterte over what they said were gross abuses.
Mr. Duterte won the presidential election last year, vowing to eradicate drugs through a campaign that would see up to 100,000 people killed.
Since he took office, police have reported killing 3,967 people in his war on drugs.
Another 2,290 people have been killed in drug-related crimes, while thousands of other deaths remain unsolved, according to government data.
Rights groups say Mr. Duterte may be presiding over a crime against humanity.
On Tuesday, Trudeau said Canada had earned a reputation for discussing human rights and the rule of law with other nations.
Asked how Mr. Duterte responded, Trudeau said: “The President was receptive to my comments and it was throughout a very cordial and positive exchange.”
He added: “This is something that is important to Canadians, and it’s important to the world and I will always bring that up.”
There was no immediate comment from Malacañang on Tuesday.
Mr. Duterte bristles at criticism of his war on drugs, calling then US President Barack Obama a “son of a bitch” for expressing concerns over human rights violations last year when the crackdown on narcotics in the Philippines turned into a killing spree.
Mr. Duterte also has not spared critics like European Union parliamentarians, local and international human rights campaigners, the United Nations, including former UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, and even former President Benigno Aquino III.
Last week, talking to reporters before leaving to attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Leaders’ Meeting in Vietnam, he said he would tell any world leader who would bring up human rights concerns with him to “lay off.”
Mr. Duterte is hosting world leaders as the Philippines holds the rotating chair of the 10-nation Asean bloc.
Rare sour note
Trudeau’s comments were a rare sour note for Mr. Duterte during the Asean Summit that had been largely silent on alleged extrajudicial killings in his war on drugs.
There was no pressure from Trump over the war on drugs during his meeting with Mr. Duterte on Monday.
A joint statement after the meeting said the two sides “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 to promote the welfare of all sectors, including the most vulnerable groups.”
It said Trump and Mr. Duterte also talked about the Philippines’ campaign against illegal drugs and crime, and agreed to work together to fight the illegal drugs scourge.
“Both sides acknowledged that illegal drug use is a problem afflicting both countries and committed to share best practices in the areas of prevention; enforcement, including capacity-building and transparency in investigations; and rehabilitation,” it said.
Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said on Monday that the issue of human rights was not brought up during the meeting.
But the White House later released a statement saying that human rights briefly came up when the drug war was discussed.
Sought for comment, Roque replied that “that’s fair insofar as [President Duterte] described war [against] drugs as promoting [human rights].” —With reports from the wires
Check out our Asean 2017 special site for important information and latest news on the 31st Asean Summit to be held in Manila on Nov. 13-15, 2017. Visit http://inquirer.net/asean-2017.
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