It was revealed Sunday that Donald Trump had invited Philippine leader Rodrigo Duterte to visit him at the White House, a new release from The New York Times reports. Duterte, current president of the densely-populated island country, has already stirred up large amounts of international controversy during his first year in office via allegations that his extreme anti-drug efforts may have resulted in thousands of extrajudicial killings and other potential human rights violations. He had previously publicly condemned former President Barack Obama, making the invitation all the more shocking for White House supporters and critics alike.
President Duterte had previously publicly disparaged former U.S. President Barack Obama, making the extension of friendship from the White House to the intense Philippine leader all the more shocking for American Trump supporters and critics alike.
Trump’s invitation for Duterte to join him was extended during the course of a phone call that took place between the two leaders on Saturday. A late-night press release from the White House described the call as a “very friendly conversation” in which the two men talked about “the fact that the Philippines is fighting very hard to rid its country of drugs.”
Human rights advocacy groups were quick to condemn any American hospitality towards Duterte, who is accused of having ordered the unlawful murders of over 6,000 people in just the first six months of his term since he took office mid-summer 2016. The mysterious circumstances surrounding the deaths have allegedly featured unknown gunmen, disguised cops, secret jails, and have primarily targeted street children, the mentally ill, and even some victims with no known links to drug use or distribution.
Adding further suspicion to Duterte’s violent reputation is his own outspokenness regarding his Manila-based war on drugs, which began long before the leader ever announced his 2016 presidential bid. While various members of President Duterte’s administration has both confirmed and denied having played roles in the spike in seemingly drug-related extrajudicial killings on multiple occasions, Duterte himself has boasted about personally having committed murder many times when serving his many years as the mayor of Davao City.
Human rights groups documented over 1400 killings allegedly committed by anti-drug vigilante groups under his mayoral authority in Davao throughout the 18 years leading up to his presidential election, which the 71-year-old candidate then ran based on an open promise to kill hundreds of thousands of criminals involved in the drug trade.
At the time of Rodrigo Duterte’s rise to power and subsequent controversy, the leader’s notoriously bloody drug war was initially met with open condemnation from then-U.S. President Barack Obama and his administration. This disapproval provoked Duterte to curse repeatedly both directly at and in reference to Obama before extending his anger at the matter out over months of threats of allyship-breaking and vague hints that the Philippines might join China and Russia in strengthening collective economic bonds, thus effectively ending the diplomatic ties established between the Filipino and American militaries.
Despite the harsh backlash that the Trump administration has been facing from human rights organizations for the surprising gesture, a representative of Duterte echoed the White House’s assertion that the phone conversation between Mr. Trump and the Phillipinne president had been void of the past administration’s hostility, even elaborating on the American president’s message.
“He was wishing me success in my campaign against the drug problem. He understood the way we are handling it and he said there is nothing wrong with protecting your country.”
No timetable has been publicly set yet for the proposed visit, though Trump is set to meet with the controversial leader while attending the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in November, an international summit meeting hosted by Duterte.
[Featured Image by Drew Angerer/Getty Images]