The Daily Manila Shimbun


Palace dismisses criticisms over Trump’s invitation to Duterte, an alleged “murderer”

May 2, 2017

Malacanang dismissed on Tuesday criticisms against United States President Donald Trump for inviting President Rodrigo Duterte, whom according to critics was a "murderer." "Basically, the conversation was between PRRD (Duterte) and POTUS (Trump). So basically it's confined between the two of them. There will always be critics," said Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella in a press briefing when asked about the criticisms against Trump for inviting to Washington the Filipino leader. While Duterte has yet to accept Trump's invitation, US-based newspapers have criticized the US leader's invitation. New York Times’ editorial, entitled "Donald Trump Embraces Another Despot," said "though the Philippines is an ally and a democracy, Mr. Duterte is neither a democratic leader nor a worthy ally." For about two decades as mayor of Davao, it said Duterte was accused of allowing death squads to roam the city and kill freely. It also said most victims of Duterte's war on drugs were poor drug users and low-level criminals and even bystanders, children and political opponents were caught up in the bloodshed. The New York Times said Duterte "disrespected" former US President Barack Obama by calling him "son of a whore" and threatened to abandon the Philippine alliance with the US for one with China. "This is obviously not a man who should be welcomed to the White House," it said. The other "despots," whom Trump has invited to the White House or whom he has been giving "affection", according to the New York Times were President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt, President Xi Jinping of China, and President Vladimir Putin of Russia. "Mr. Trump reportedly admires Mr. Duterte’s aggressive rhetoric about fighting the Islamic State and cracking down on drugs. He has praised President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey for winning a disputed referendum that will give him vastly more power and invited him to the White House on May 16. He has already given a friendly reception to President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt, who was barred from the White House after staging a coup four years ago and arresting thousands of political opponents. He has replaced harsh criticism of China with praise for President Xi Jinping, and in the past displayed a bizarre affection for Russia’s Vladimir Putin," it said. "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 added. The New York Daily News carried an opinion piece entitled "By inviting the Philippines' Rodrigo Duterte to the White House, Donald Trump emboldens a killer." The opinion authored by Alan Tidwell cited reasons why the public should be "appalled" by Trump's invitation to Duterte at The White House. "Duterte's a killer," Tidwell said as he cited the killings, which Duterte allegedly perpetrated when he was still the mayor of Davao City and the death of over 7,000 people allegedly involved in illegal drugs since July last year, shortly after he assumed the presidency. "A White House invitation to Duterte should be a reward for once he changes his tune on the use of violence for 'civic improvement' — if that day ever comes. With Trump's approval, there is little incentive for Duterte to change his ways," said Tidwell, a director of the Center for Australian, New Zealand and Pacific Studies at the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University. "In the morning before meeting the Philippine president, while standing in front of the mirror for his morning shave, President Trump should ask himself if he wishes to be known as a friend to thugs. Or, would he prefer to be a defender of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Sadly, we seem to already know the answer," he added. Former US Attorney Preet Bharara slammed Trump's invitation to Duterte, whom he described as an "admitted killer." Trump called up Duterte on Saturday night while the latter was hosting a dinner gala for the leaders of Association of South East Asian Nations. In their phone conversation, Trump invited Duterte to The White House. Duterte, in an interview in Davao City on Monday, said he has not accepted the invitation because he has to visit first other countries, such as Russia and Israel. According to Abella, Trump's invitation to Duterte was an "open invitation." "He (Duterte) didn’t say yes, he didn’t say no. You know, it was a part of the conversation but there was no commitment, there was no promise to go at a specific date," he said. He said Trump's invitation to Duterte was "a sign of openness and understating between the two leaders definitely." (Celerina Monte/DMS)