MANILA -- Malacañang on Thursday said it will not comment on the letter sent by two American lawmakers to United States President Donald Trump, urging him to discuss the Philippine human rights situation in his forthcoming meeting with President Rodrigo Duterte.
“The Palace will not comment on an internal US government matter,” Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said in a statement.
In an open letter dated Nov. 2, Congressmen Randy Hultgren, a Republican, and James McGovern, a Democrat, co-chairs of the US House of Representatives’ Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, urged Trump to “impress upon President Duterte the United States’ profound concern over reported extra-judicial killings associated with the Philippine government’s war on drugs.”
The lawmakers said while they recognize the strategic importance of maintaining strong Philippines-US relationship, especially amid rising tensions in the Korean Peninsula and the South China Sea, they reminded Trump that it is the obligation of the US to advocate for and defend those human rights as set forth in the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
“We ask that you raise these issues in your talks with President Duterte even as you reaffirm the United States’ unwavering commitment to and friendship with the Philippines,” Hultgren and McGovern said.
Duterte and Trump will meet for the first time in Da Nang, Vietnam as they attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit.
Duterte will then host Trump next week during the 31st Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit in Manila, where the two leaders are expected to engage in bilateral talks.
But even as the Palace declined to comment on the letter, Roque pointed out that “President Duterte and President Trump have warm rapport, and can have candid and productive discussions on matters of shared interest.”
He added that the Duterte administration is firmly committed to the protection of human rights, due process and the rule of law.
“We reiterate that our adherence to the rule of law remains as firm as ever, as is our commitment to the protection of human rights,” he said.
“The government is investigating allegations of so-called extra-judicial killings, including homicide cases with drug-related motives. Ongoing investigations include the conduct of public congressional hearings. All these are undertaken precisely to ensure that due process and the rule of law prevails despite the Philippines' significant drug problem,” Roque said. (PNA)