Philippines open to address US human rights concerns


Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, right, and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis arrive on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Aug. 2, 2017, to brief the Senate Foreign Relations Committee behind closed-doors regarding the administration’s perspective on the authorizations for the use of military force. AP/Manuel Balce Ceneta

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine government welcomed the visit of the United States’ top diplomat to attend ASEAN-related meetings in the country.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is expected to raise human rights issues in the Philippines amid President Rodrigo Duterte’s campaign against the illegal drug trade.

The Department of Foreign Affairs noted that it is part of Tillerson’s duty as a government official to discuss human rights not only in the Philippines but the rest of the world.

“They are accountable to their Congress and their press as they advance their values and interests. We share the belief that no country has a perfect human rights situation,” the DFA said in a statement released Friday.

The Philippine government, however, is keen on correcting Washington’s perception of Duterte’s war on drugs, based on what they claimed as “exaggerated” reports.

“We welcome the opportunity to address their concerns and correct the perceptions they may have gleaned from exaggerated media reports,” the statement read.

The US government had been expressing concern on reports of extrajudicial killings by government authorities in the Philippines.

In November last year, Washington decided to refocus its assistance to Manila from law enforcement to maritime security.

READ: US moves aid away from Duterte’s drug war

The DFA stressed that discussions on issues of human rights are always included in the country’s engagement with foreign governments, particularly Western nations, given that the Philippines is the oldest democracy in Asia.

Aside from human rights issues, Tillerson will discuss relevant matters of shared interest including the Marawi conflict, terrorism and increasing Philippine-US economic and people-to-people engagement at the sidelines of the ASEAN-related meetings.

“These discussions are all aimed at strengthening the old friendship between the two countries,” the DFA said.

The US Department of State is looking forward to Tillerson’s meeting with Philippine officials, which is still being arranged.

“We’re still working out the last details of the schedule of that bilateral meeting, so I can’t tell you exactly what the meeting schedule is, but we will certainly get those details out as soon as we have them,” acting US Assistant Secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Susan Thornton said in Washington on Wednesday.

RELATED: Tillerson to raise US human rights concerns in Philippines



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