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White House Invites Embattled Philippine President

Molly Stephen, Maroon Tribune Editor

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In April of 2016, Benigno Aquino III was still President of the Philippines and there was an ongoing battle for the presidency. Mar Roxas who came within 6.6 million votes of Duterte was his closest contender. On the campaign trail, Duterte made promises of eradicating drugs from the Philippines, pledging to have a bloody presidency and to issue pardons to police and others who committed human rights abuses. He also stated that he would issue himself a pardon for mass murder. Despite Duterte’s shockingly candid rhetoric of violence as well as a string of violence against drug users in the city of Davao, where he was mayor, Filipinos continued to walk on the beach and around the city wearing black t-shirt emblazoned with “DUTERTE” in gold lettering.

During the 2016 campaign, President Duterte said that President Trump personally endorsed his violent anti-drug campaign, telling him that the Philippines was doing it “the right way.” Duterte’s campaign faced criticism from many countries and organizations, with the United States, the United Nations, and the European Union condemning his campaign against drugs. Upon hearing this criticism and prior to a meeting to be held between the former president and Duterte, he called Obama a “son of a whore.” Obama subsequently cancelled the meeting.

On Sunday, April 31, White House chief of staff, Reince Priebus, defended the White House’s shocking invitation of Duterte to Washington. Duterte ran for the presidency on a promise of a violent war on drugs in the Philippines, promising to use deadly force.

The White House noted that their invitation was extended to the controversial president because, “the issues facing us, developing out of North Korea, are so serious that we need a cooperation at some level from as many partners in the area as possible.” Priebus denied that the invitation is any type of endorsement although many foreign leaders view an invitation to the White House as an extension of support.

Since Duterte assumed the presidency late last June, there have reportedly been 3,500 killings of suspected drug users and dealers, most of whom had not been convicted of any crimes. Other reports state that there have been upwards of 7,000 murders, often carried out by police or vigilante death squads. Prisons in the Philippines are drastically overcrowded with people that have turned themselves in out of fear of violence. While Duterte was the mayor of Davao, he admitted to personally killing people who were convicted of crimes, although he later disputed that he ever killed anyone as mayor.

All of this aside, the White House still asserts that this meeting is solely about relations in Asia and is not at all an endorsement of Duterte. Priebus stated on Sunday morning that there is still a regard for human rights within the White House.

To see a photographs of these human rights violations in the Philippines, check out Daniel Berehulak’s shots at https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2016/12/07/world/asia/rodrigo-duterte-philippines-drugs-killings.html

 

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Celebrating the Spirit and News of Monument Mountain
White House Invites Embattled Philippine President