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Trump, Duterte underline value of ‘human rights’

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, left, shakes hands with US President Donald Trump during the 31st Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit in Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) in Manila on Monday Nov. 13, 2017.(Noel Celis/Pool Photo via AP)
MANILA: Following their first official meeting, US President Donald Trump and Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte released a joint statement accentuating the value of human rights.

Trump and Duterte met in Manila on Monday on the margins of the 31st Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit and Related Meetings.

“The two sides underscored that human rights and the dignity of human life are essential,” read part of a joint statement from the US and the Philippines.

It added that both leaders “agreed to continue mainstreaming the human rights agenda in their national programs to promote the welfare of all sectors, including the most vulnerable groups.”

However, the statement comes amid widespread criticism of Duterte for the alleged extrajudicial murders of thousands of alleged drug dealers and users across the country since he assumed office in June 2016, in his zero tolerance war on drugs.

In a press briefing on Monday, Duterte's spokesman, lawyer Harry Roque, said that the issue of human rights violations in the country was not raised during the Trump-Duterte bilateral meeting. He added, though, that Duterte explained his drug policy to Trump at length and that Trump “seems to be appreciative of his efforts.”

The joint US-PH statement said “the two sides discussed the ongoing campaign in the Philippines against criminality including illegal drugs.

“Both sides acknowledged that illegal drug use is a problem afflicting both countries,” it continued, adding that the two countries “committed to share best practices in the areas of prevention; enforcement, including capacity-building and transparency in investigations; and rehabilitation.”

In a separate development, the US Embassy in the Philippines commended Philippine authorities, particularly those with the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Inter Agency Drug Interdiction Task Group (NAIA IADITG), the Philippine Bureau of Customs, and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) on the seizure of one kilogram of cocaine.

According to the embassy, on Nov. 12, US Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in Manila shared information about a high-risk traveler aboard an incoming international flight with the Philippine Bureau of Customs and the PDEA at Ninoy Aquino International Airport. This information resulted in the arrest of a Colombian national for possession of drugs.

“This operation was successful thanks to close coordination between HSI, the Bureau of Customs, the PDEA, and the NAIA IADITG,” said the US embassy.

During an interview with the Bureau of Customs, the suspect admitted to swallowing the cocaine in order to smuggle it into the country. Authorities recovered 79 condom-wrapped pellets from the suspect.