Palace confident Trump won't bring up drug war with Duterte

By Ian Nicolas Cigaral

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Protesters shout slogans holding portraits of U.S. President Donald Trump and Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte during a rally near the U.S. Embassy to protest this weekend's visit of the U.S. President Friday, Nov. 10, 2017, in Manila, Philippines. Trump is currently on a nine day visit to Asia with the Philippines as his last stop for the ASEAN leaders summit. The sign reads translated "Fascist." AP/Bullit Marquez

MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang on Saturday expressed confidence that US President Donald Trump would not raise with President Rodrigo Duterte the reported human rights violations in his brutal drug war when the two sit down for talks next week.

Earlier, a White House official reportedly said that Trump plans on discussing the human rights situation in the Philippines on his forthcoming meeting with Duterte.

READ: Trump to raise human rights with Duterte at ASEAN Summit

The two heads of state are set to hold their first bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the 31st Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit in Manila on November 13.

Asked how Duterte would react should Trump bring up the issue of human rights in the Philippines, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque noted how the American leader previously lauded Duterte's efforts.

“I'm confident that President Trump, having endorsed Duterte's war on drugs, will also see no necessity in bringing it up,” Roque told a press conference in Vietnam.

SPECIAL COVERAGE: ASEAN Summit in the Philippines

“I think the Philippine president was very clear in his statement to the Philippine media on our first night here in Da Nang. He will refuse to pursue any talks relating to a domestic issue such as on his war on drugs,” he added.

Before leaving for Vietnam on Wednesday, Duterte, who brooks no criticism of his rights record and anti-drug campaign, said he wants Trump to lay off the topic of human rights in their maiden bilateral meeting.

“Lay off, that is my business. I take care of my country,” Duterte said.

Also on Saturday, Duterte and Trump met for the first time on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit in Da Nang, Vietnam. According to Duterte’s aide, the chat between the two leaders was short, with Trump telling Duterte, "See you tomorrow."

The maverick Duterte earlier incited diplomatic alarm after he announced Manila’s “separation” from its century-old alliance with Washington after former US President Barack Obama criticized Manila’s bloody drug war.

Ties between the two countries’ later improved upon Trump’s election victory. In a telephone conversation last April, Trump had told his Philippine counterpart he was doing an “unbelievable job on the drug problem.”

“As far as Philippine President Duterte is concerned, the war against drugs is a domestic police matter,” Roque, a known human rights lawyer, said in the same news briefing.

“It is subject to the principle of non-interference which is recognized in the human charter and the international law,” he added.

READ: US House caucus urges Trump to raise rights concerns with Duterte | Rody wants 2 US lawmakers barred from visiting Philippines

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