Just over a month ago, President Trump made clear his strong admiration for Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte for his war on drugs.
On Tuesday, the White House seemed to walk back his praise of the strongman known as “Duterte Harry” and his hard-nosed law enforcement tactics that have been sharply denounced by human rights advocates. Since Duterte took office last year, the Human Rights Watch advocacy group charged, roughly 7,000 Filipinos have been executed over drug-related crimes — many without benefit of a trial.
At the regular briefing for White House reporters, I asked press secretary Sean Spicer about the president’s congratulations to Duterte on April 29 for an “unbelievable job on the drug problem.”
“I think the president recognizes the need to combat drugs,” Spicer told me,“but he also believes in human rights. It's something that he’s worked with several countries. It's one of the reasons that he’s reviewing the [Obama administration’s] Cuba policy.”
Spicer emphasized that “human rights is something that’s very strong to [Trump]. It's something that he’s discussed in private with several countries.”
Following Trump’s telephoned congratulations to the man he called “Rodrigo” on April 29, Human Rights Watch President Phelim Kine denounced Trump for “cheerleading a murderous campaign that has killed more than 7,000 Filipinos.”
He charged added that Trump has sent “a signal to Duterte and his willing executioners that their lawless killing spree can continue with a vengeance without fear of international criticism and repercussions."
John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax. For more of his reports, Go Here Now.
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