The Philippine government is open to discussing the human rights situation in the country should the United States’ top diplomat raise the issue during his upcoming visit to Manila.
In a statement released Friday, August 4, the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) welcomed the visit of U.S. Secretary of the State Rex Tillerson to Manila as he is one of the participants for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)-related meetings next week.
While pointing out that “no country has a perfect human rights situation,” the department said discussions on the human rights issue are always included in its engagements with foreign governments.
Washington has repeatedly expressed concerns over the human rights situation in Manila in connection with reports of alleged summary killings and rights violations linked to Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s anti-illegal drugs campaign.
“We share the belief that no country has a perfect human rights situation. We welcome the opportunity to address their concerns and correct the perceptions they may have gleaned from exaggerated media reports,” the DFA said.
The department noted that it also “understands” that it is the duty of U.S. officials “to talk about human rights” with the Philippines and other foreign governments because they are “accountable to their Congress and their press as they advance their values and interests.”
“The Philippines is the oldest democracy in Asia and respect for human rights is a shared valued especially with our treaty ally, the United States,” the DFA added.
Tillerson is expected to meet with his counterparts and participate in the ASEAN Regional Forum, the East Asian Summit, the US-ASEAN ministerial meeting, and the Lower Mekong Initiative meeting.
At the sidelines of the ASEAN-related meetings, the U.S. diplomat is also expected to discuss a range of issues with Philippine officials, including the security situation in Marawi City, addressing the global threat of terrorism, and increasing Philippine-U.S. economic and people-to-people engagement.
The DFA further emphasized that all its discussions with Washington are “aimed at strengthening the old friendship between the two countries.”
In a television interview on Thursday, August 3, U.S. Ambassador Sung Kim underscored the strong relationship between Manila and Washington despite Duterte constantly issuing seemingly anti-U.S. sentiments.
“[The] Philippines only has one ally and that’s us, that hasn’t changed and will not change,” Kim told GMA News TV’s “State of the Nation.”
Duterte has repeatedly expressed crude and controversial remarks against the U.S. government for criticizing his drug war.
Kim, however, reiterated his confidence that the two countries’ ties remain strong, highlighting that activities on the ground should be stressed more than Duterte’s controversial pronouncements.
“What I focus on is the strength of U.S.-Philippines relationship. For me what’s more important than public statements is what’s actually happening in the relationship,” the U.S. envoy remarked.
He went on to say, “President Duterte has been very supportive in doing whatever we can to strengthen our lines and you know making sure that our economic engagement remains strong, and then we continue to have this robust flow of traffic between our two countries.”