The White House on Thursday criticized Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte over his claim that he “personally” prowled the streets of Davao as that city’s mayor and killed suspected drug dealers.
“Those comments are deeply troubling, and they certainly are at odds with the Philippine government’s stated commitment to due process and rule of law,” President Obama’s chief spokesman, Josh Earnest, told reporters at his daily briefing.
Duterte boasted in late Monday-night remarks to business leaders that, as mayor, “I would just patrol the streets, looking for trouble also. I was really looking for a confrontation so I could kill.” He said he did so to encourage police officers to do the same.
The Philippine president, who took office on June 30, has drawn criticism from human rights groups and Obama for his aggressive campaign to eradicate illegal drugs. Thousands of people have been killed without trial, slain by either police or unknown assailants. In his Monday remarks, Duterte said he was “not about to” rein in his efforts.
Earlier this month, Duterte said that, in a telephone conversation, President-elect Donald Trump praised his approach as “the right way” to tackle illegal drugs.
The Philippine leader has called Obama a son of a whore, while likening himself to Adolf Hitler, saying he’d be “happy” to exterminate 3 million drug users and dealers.
Earnest on Monday said, “The United States continues to be concerned by the widespread reports of extrajudicial killings by or at the behest of government authorities in the Philippines” and “strongly supports the idea of a thorough, credible and transparent investigation into these reports.
“We continue to believe it’s critically important that the government in the Philippines observe and even protect the basic universal human rights that are central to that democracy and ours,” he said.
Asked what Duterte needed to do for Washington to go beyond mere expressions of concern and perhaps reevaluate the military relationship it has with Manila, Earnest underscored that the Philippine president had never followed through on promises “to carry out radical changes” in his country’s cooperation with the United States.
“We certainly are paying attention to the words and comments that are being expressed, but we’re paying more careful attention to the actions,” Earnest said.