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NYT, Washington Post condemn Trump for Duterte invite
By Audrey Morallo (philstar.com) | Updated May 2, 2017 - 10:33pm
Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte gestures while addressing the media following the conclusion of the 30th ASEAN Leaders' Summit in Manila, Philippines, Saturday, April 29, 2017. Duterte suggested Saturday to his American counterpart to back out from an intensifying standoff with North Korea not in surrender but to avoid risking a nuclear "holocaust" that could affect Asia immensely. AP/Bullit Marquez
MANILA, Philippines — Two American newspapers on Tuesday slammed the invitation of US President Donald Trump for President Rodrigo Duterte to visit the White House, saying that the American leader should instead condemn the brutality the Philippine leader's war on drugs.
In separate scathing editorials, The New York Times and The Washington Post condemned Trump’s invitation to Duterte, which was given during their conversation late Saturday night (Manila time) right after Manila hosted the leaders of Southeast Asian nations for a regional summit.
The Times said that Duterte was not a man who should be welcomed to the White House considering the number of killings that has transpired under his rule in Davao City during his time as its mayor and now that he is the president of the Philippines, and his insult directed at former President Barack Obama.
“The mayhem got so bad that last week a Filipino lawyer formally asked the International Criminal Court to charge Mr. Duterte and 11 officials with mass murder and crimes against humanity over the extrajudicial killings of nearly 10,000 people over the past three decades,” The Times said.
“During the last administration, Mr. Duterte disrespected President Barack Obama by calling him the “son of a whore” and threatened to abandon his country’s alliance with the United States for one with China.”
It concluded: “This is obviously not a man who should be welcomed to the White House.”
The Times, which has been very critical of Duterte since he assumed the Philippine presidency in June last year, said that the decision to invite Duterte was against American values and would erode its reputation as a “moral compass.”
“Like so much else under President Trump, though, this idea has now been turned on its head and people are worried about the very survival of the values on which America built its reputation and helped construct an entire international system, including the United Nations. The latest example is Mr. Trump’s decision to invite Rodrigo Duterte, the president of the Philippines, to the White House,” its editorial said.
Duterte has been critical of the US for raising human rights concerns over the war on drugs. In a visit to China last year, Duterte announced that he was separating from the US, a declaration that his spokespersons later clarified as the president merely emphasizing the Philippines' shift to an independent foreign policy.
"I have separated from them so I will be dependent on you (China) for a long time but don't worry we will also help," Duterte said at the same venue.
America's reputation at stake
The newspaper further said that although the US must work with its allies, Trump’s uncritical embrace of those who showed the least regard for human rights, rule of law and democracy would undermine America's reputation.
“American presidents must work with foreign leaders of all kinds to advance the national interest. But Mr. Trump erodes America’s reputation when he uncritically embraces those who show the least regard for human rights, rule of law and democracy,” it said.
Although the Philippines is an ally, the newspaper says, Duterte is not a democratic leader nor a worthy ally because of the killings which have risen exponentially since his assumption of the presidency.
The Philippine government has denied that there are extrajudicial killings and has insisted that it upholds human rights. It has questioned the reports of up to 9,000 deaths attributed to the drug war.
The newspaper explained that Trump’s fondness for Duterte could be because of authoritarian tendencies and his loathing of checks and balances of the government. It mentioned Trump’s admiration of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt, President Xi Jinping and Russia’s Vladimir Putin as evidence of this tendency.
The Post said in its editorial: “A subtle U.S. policy would recognize the need for U.S.-Philippine cooperation without endorsing the contemptible offenses of the current president. Instead, President Trump has offered Mr. Duterte an unqualified embrace that effectively blesses his murderous campaign. In so doing, Mr. Trump sends Asians the message that there is no difference between China’s amoral foreign policy and that of this U.S. administration.”
Implied endorsement of drug war
The Washington newspaper also criticized the Trump White House for saying that “the Philippine government is fighting very hard to rid its country of drugs.” It said that saying the Philippines was “fighting very hard” amounted to saying that Duterte’s tactics have been appropriate and necessary.
“‘Fighting hard’ is one way — the wrong way — to describe the wanton killing by police and vigilantes of accused dealers and users. It implies that Mr. Duterte’s tactics are appropriate or necessary, which they are not. Mr. Trump ought to have shunned the Filipino leader until he reined in those practices. Instead, he invited him to the White House” The Post said.
It added that the invitation to Duterte was needed by Trump’s administration to counter China instead of to mobilize the region against North Korea over which the Philippines did not have any influence.
The Post also admitted the complex challenge Duterte posed to the American government. He was a democratically elected leader of an Asian ally needed to counter Chinese expansionism in the West Philippine Sea, yet is the “author’ of the extrajudicial killings of more than 7,000 people.
The Times has been very critical of the Duterte administration's war on drugs. It has published several articles detailing the government's brutal crackdown against illegal drugs which has claimed thousands of lives. It has also regular issued excoriating editorials against the Philippine president, calling on the international community to condemn him and even to impose trade sanctions on the Philippines. In retaliation, Duterte has cursed the newspaper and told it to cease publication.
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