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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 23 June 2018

Duterte is sure Trump won't mention human rights in the Philippines

Human rights groups have urged the US president him to pressure President Duterte over the thousands of lives lost in the controversial anti-drugs crackdown.

Not such a warm welcome for Donald Trump outside the US embassy as he arrives for two days of summits in the Phillippines on November 12, 2017.  Mark R. Cristino
Not such a warm welcome for Donald Trump outside the US embassy as he arrives for two days of summits in the Phillippines on November 12, 2017. Mark R. Cristino

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said he was "sure" Donald Trump would not raise human rights concerns when they meet in Manila, after the US president praised his deadly drug war.

Mr Trump is due to land in the Philippine capital on Sunday evening ahead of two days of summits, and human rights groups have urged him to pressure President Duterte over the thousands of lives lost in the controversial anti-drugs crackdown.

But Mr Duterte is confident that will not happen, saying the American president had already given him "words of encouragement," praising both his handling of the crackdown on drugs and a military campaign against ISIL supporters in the southern Phiippines when they met on the sidelines of another regional summit in Vietnam on Saturday.

"He said something about: 'You know, you handle it very well'," Mr Duterte said on Sunday after returning to Manila.

But some in Mr Duterte's own country appear to disagree with protesters gathering near the US embassy in Manila ahead of Mr Trump's arrival.

When asked if the issue of extra-judicial killings -- which human rights groups say are rampant in the drug war -- would be discussed during his meeting with Mr Trump Mr Duterte said: "I'm sure he will not take it up."

Mr Duterte was elected president last year after promising to eradicate illegal drugs in society with an unprecedented crackdown that would see up to 100,000 people killed. Since he took office, police have reported killing 3,967 people in the crackdown. Another 2,290 people have been murdered in drug-related crimes, while thousands of other deaths remain unsolved, according to government data.

Many Filipinos back President Duterte, believing he is taking necessary measures to fight crime, but human rights groups warn he may be orchestrating a crime against humanity.

Amnesty International on Saturday called on President Trump to raise the issue with Mr Duterte, either publicly or privately. The pair are tentatively scheduled to hold one-on-one talks on Monday.

"The US has to use its influence and leverage to call out Duterte's record on human rights," said Amnesty's Philippine director Jose Noel Olano. "He'll be meeting a man whose policies are responsible for thousands of unlawful killings, including dozens of children."

Last year, Mr Duterte, 72, branded the then US president Barack Obama a "son of a whore" for criticising the drug war. Relations between the two nations then deteriorated, but began to improve again when Mr Trump told Mr Duterte in a telephone call in April that he was doing a "great job" with his campaign against narcotics.

Though Mr Duterte has often said he doesn't care about human rights - and once claimed he would be "happy to slaughter" three million Filipino addicts. - he also insists he has never told the police to break the law .