President Donald Trump reportedly praised Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte for his brutal war on drugs, which includes state-sponsored murders of accused dealers and users, during a White House phone call on April 29.
The Intercept obtained the official transcript of the call that was created by the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs, which shows Trump telling Duterte: "I just wanted to congratulate you because I am hearing of the unbelievable job on the drug problem. Many countries have the problem, we have a problem, but what a great job you are doing and I just wanted to call and tell you that."
Duterte responded: "Thank you, Mr. President. This is the scourge of my nation now and I have to do something to preserve the Filipino nation."
Trump reportedly told Duterte that President Obama had been critical of the killings in the Philippines, a feeling that Trump said he did not share: "I understand that, and fully understand that, and I think we had a previous president who did not understand that, but I understand that and we have spoken about this before."
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Duterte’s police killings of Filipino citizens have been condemned by the international community, and his notorious "war on drugs" has been condemned by the United Nations special rapporteur on extrajudicial killings.
The New York Times reported in December 2016 that 2,000 people had been killed by police since Duterte took office on June 30, 2016.
The newspaper noted that Duterte has called for the shootings of people suspected of selling or using drugs. At one point, Duterte said to "slaughter them all."
Duterte said in September 2016 that he wanted to kill millions of drug addicts as Hitler had killed Jews, reported CNN:
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Hitler massacred 3 million Jews. Now there is 3 million, what is it, 3 million drug addicts (in the Philippines), there are. I'd be happy to slaughter them. At least if Germany had Hitler, the Philippines would have (me). You know my victims, I would like [them] to be all criminals, to finish the problem of my country and save the next generation from perdition.
Duterte encouraged unemployed Filipinos to murder drug addicts on April 2017, noted PhilStar.com.
Duterte told overseas Filipino workers returning from the Middle East at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila: "If you lose your job, I’ll give you one. Kill all the drug addicts."
"Help me kill addicts," Duterte told another group of workers. "Let’s kill addicts everyday."
The Intercept broke the story of Trump's phone call to Duterte just after the Philippine president announced that he was instituting martial law on the island of Mindanao.
Duterte was supposed to be in Russia this week to meet with President Vladimir Putin; Duterte has described Putin as his "favorite hero."
Duterte announced on May 23 that he was coming back to the Philippines because of fighting between the Mindanao government and Muslim rebels who want the island to have more autonomy.
John Sifton, the Asia advocacy director for Human Rights Watch, weighed in on the transcript of Trump's call to Duterte with The Intercept: "To endorse Duterte is to endorse a man who advocates mass murder and who has admitted to killing people himself. Endorsing his methods is a celebration of the death of the poor and vulnerable."
The White House described the call between Trump and Duterte as a "very friendly conversation," reports The Intercept:
President Donald J. Trump spoke today with President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines. It was a very friendly conversation, in which the two leaders discussed the concerns of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) regarding regional security, including the threat posed by North Korea.
They also discussed the fact that the Philippine government is fighting very hard to rid its country of drugs, a scourge that affects many countries throughout the world. President Trump enjoyed the conversation and said that he is looking forward to visiting the Philippines in November to participate in the East Asia Summit and the U.S.-ASEAN Summit.
President Trump also invited President Duterte to the White House to discuss the importance of the the United States-Philippines alliance, which is now heading in a very positive direction.