MANILA, Philippines — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau directly raised human-rights concerns with Rodrigo Duterte — including extrajudicial killings carried out by security forces in his country — in a confrontation Tuesday that the Philippine president later derided as a “personal and official insult.”
Speaking to reporters in Manila after a summit of Southeast Asian countries, Trudeau said he told Duterte about the need for the rule of law in the Philippines, and also made a friendly offer of support to help the Philippines move forward.
Trudeau said Duterte — whose violent crackdown on drug dealers and drug users by his government’s forces have left thousands dead — was receptive to the comments during what the Canadian prime minister called a very cordial and positive exchange.
Duterte, however, seemed to remember it differently.
“I said, ‘I will not explain. It is a personal and official insult,’” he told a news conference later Tuesday of his discussion with Trudeau. “‘It angers me when you are a foreigner, you do not know what exactly is happening in this country. You don’t even investigate.’”
Duterte is highly sensitive to such criticism, and in the past called then U.S. President Barack Obama a “son of a bitch” after the State Department publicly expressed concern over the Philippine anti-drug campaign.
President Donald Trump, who also attended this week’s ASEAN summit, did not publicly take Duterte to task for the drug crackdown. Instead, Trump said he and Duterte “had a great relationship,” and avoided questions about whether he raised human rights concerns in a meeting with the Philippine leader.
The prime minister’s brief meeting with Duterte took place before Trudeau delivered a speech to members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in a bid for Canada to eventually join its exclusive, influential circles that focus on security in the Asia-Pacific.
For several years, Canada has been working to forge closer ties with ASEAN, including its East Asia Summit security grouping that includes leaders of the U.S., China and Russia.
The Canadian government asked the Philippines for an invitation to ASEAN and a working luncheon before this year’s East Asia Summit. It’s unclear how long it will take Canada to obtain a more-permanent status within ASEAN.
Even though Duterte helped Canada get a seat at a table, Trudeau said he still brought up concerns with the Philippine president.
“As I mentioned to President Duterte, we’re concerned with human rights, with the extrajudicial killings,” Trudeau told the news conference that closed his eight-day trip to the Philippines and Vietnam.
“Countries around the world know that when you engage with Canada you will hear about human-rights concerns and we are the first to mention that we are not perfect, either.”
Trudeau said Indigenous Peoples in Canada have suffered “neglect, marginalization and mistreatment” for centuries.