Two leaders reportedly have ‘warm rapport’
U.S. President Donald Trump looks forward to meeting with Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, in a controversial move he sees as a success over the last administration. The two leaders are said to have a ‘warm rapport.’
“You remember the Philippines — the last trip made by a president that turned out to be not so good,” said Trump on Wednesday, November 1. “Never quite got to land.”
A day before, the president said, “We’re going to the Philippines which is a strategically important location where the previous administration was not exactly welcome, as you probably remember.”
Trump’s remarks come as statements by a White House senior administration official, who also on Tuesday, October 31, signaled that Trump and Duterte have a good relationship.
“President Duterte, he’s spoken with, they’ve had exchanges of letters,” said a senior administration official to reporters on Tuesday. “I think there’s a warm rapport there, and he’s very much looking forward to his first in-person meeting with President Duterte.”
Around two weeks ago, the White House announced that Trump would meet with Duterte during his upcoming tour of Asia slotted to take place Nov. 3-14.
Countries included in the Asian tour are Vietnam, China, South Korea and Japan. The U.S. leader is expected to participate in the special gala celebration of the 50th anniversary of ASEAN and the ASEAN-U.S. meeting in Manila but will skip the East Asia Summit (EAS) on November 14 in Pampanga.
In a media briefing on Sunday, October 29, Duterte said that during the forthcoming Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit, he intends to discuss with Trump, issues of terrorism, relations between the two countries, and the ongoing fight against drugs.
He also expressed camaraderie with the U.S. president and said, “I would deal with President Trump in the most righteous way, welcome him as an important leader.”
“I would have to also listen to him, what he has to say,” Duterte added.
Duterte has openly expressed criticism towards the United States before, once accusing Washington of treating the Philippines “like a dog with a leash.”
Upon being criticized for his extrajudicial killings by the former Obama administration last year, Duterte called former U.S. President Barack Obama a “son of a whore,” which led Obama to cancel his meeting with Duterte.
Just a year ago in October 2016, Duterte voiced his intention to end cooperation with the U.S. while also expressing intent to side with Beijing.
“In this venue, your honors, in this venue, I announce my separation from the United States,” said Duterte to Chinese and Philippine business people, as reported by Reuters. “Both in military, not maybe social, but economics also. America has lost,” he added.
The controversial Philippine president, who was sworn into office in June of last year, has long been condemned by international leaders and human rights groups for his war on drugs which has claimed thousands of lives.
Trump, on the other hand, has been noted to have taken a different approach when engaging with Duterte which many have criticized.
“Trump’s explicit eagerness to meet with the architect of a killing campaign that has resulted in the deaths of more than 12,000 men, women and children over the past 16 months is more than grievous insult to injury for family members of victims,” said deputy Asia director of Human Rights Watch, Phelim Kine, as quoted by The Guardian.
In May, leaked phone conversations between the two leaders revealed Trump congratulating Duterte on his controversial war on drugs.
“I just wanted to congratulate you because I am hearing of the unbelievable job on the drug problem,” said Trump in a leaked April 29 phone call transcript obtained by The Washington Post and The New York Times, and published by The Intercept.
“Many countries have the problem, we have a problem, but what a great job you are doing and I just wanted to call and tell you that,” he added.
Duterte’s biggest and most persistent adversary, Philippine Senator Antonio Trillanes, recently visited the United States where he met with U.S. Senator Marco Rubio. Upon returning to the Philippines, Trillanes denied reports that he tried to persuade U.S. government officials into convincing Trump to cancel his Manila visit.