Trump praises Duterte for an "unbelievable job" on drug issue

Olive Rios
May 25, 2017

Duterte is accused by global human rights groups of supporting a campaign of extrajudicial killings of drug suspects in the Philippines, which his government denies.

Duterte has responded to critics of the drug war with strong rhetoric.

He said the martial law will be withdrawn only after the police and the army have confirmed that the situation in Mindanao is stable, Efe news reported.

Duterte told reporters in December that Trump, then President-elect, told him over the phone he was handling the fight against drugs "the right way". "Now, there are 3 million drug addicts.I'd be happy to slaughter them", he said during a speech a year ago. Martial law has been controversial in the Philippines since it was enforced in 1972 under previous dictator Ferdinand Marcos, under whom more than 3,000 people died in extrajudicial killings - which is fewer than the nearly 9,000 people killed in police operations or by vigilantes as a result of Duterte's anti-drug policies (a figure he has mocked).

Duterte was infuriated by the Obama administration's expressions of concern about extrajudicial killings after he took office and threatened to sever the long-standing USA defense alliance.

Though details are still spotty, official and local reports suggest the fighting that triggered the declaration of martial law on Tuesday continued through Wednesday. Strains also grew as Duterte sought warmer ties with China and threatened to end the U.S.

The rebels took hostage Father Chito Suganob, a priest at the city's Cathedral of Our Lady Help of Christians, and several other Christians, according to the head of the country bishops' association.

The roughly 100 militants roamed through Marawi city, killing five soldiers, taking a priest and an unspecified number of other people hostage from a church, setting fire to buildings and flying black IS flags, according to Duterte and his aides.

"The recent pronouncement made by the President that the martial law in Mindanao will be as harsh as Marcos' martial law is a unsafe edict", NUPL Secretary-General Ephraim B. Cortez said.

"To those who have experienced martial law, it would not be any different from what President Marcos did", Duterte said on his flight back to the Philippines.

"If I think you should die, you will die".

The extremist leader of the infamous Abu Sayyaf gang is regarded by the United States as one of the world's most risky terrorists due to his penchant for kidnapping and beheading westerners. The Marcos dictatorship had been marred by human rights abuses and corruption.

The post-Marcos constitution also imposed safeguards on martial law, including the requirement for congress to approve its imposition and extension. "We urge the Philippine government to ensure that the rights of all Filipinos are respected as it addresses violence and crime in the southern Philippines".

A senior USA official said the Trump administration did not dispute the accuracy of the transcript and declined further comment.

"With this kind of escalation, it's always the innocent that pay".

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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