By Argyll Cyrus Geducos
President Duterte will meet with drug war critics United States Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop in Malacañang Monday afternoon.
The President met with Tillerson after it was reported that the latter visited Manila to raise all relevant issues regarding the long-standing alliance between the two countries including concerns about human rights.
Presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella, during the Mindanao Hour press briefing Monday morning, said Duterte is open to discuss the matter with the US top diplomat if it is raised.
“We also welcome the opportunity to address concerns such as human rights, if and when raised. We have always included this issue in our discussion and engagements with foreign governments, particularly western democracies,” Abella said.
According to the Palace official, Duterte is also expected to discuss other matters of interest with Tillerson.
“We expect the President to discuss with Secretary Tillerson a wide range of relevant issues including the security situation in Marawi, the global threat of terrorism, increasing Philippine-US economic and people-to-people engagement and the Balangiga bells,” he said.
The US has provided technical assistance to the government troops fighting the war in Marawi City since May 23.
Duterte had also appealed for the return of the Balangiga bells to which the US Embassy in Manila vowed to find a resolution on the recovery of the said remnants of war.
Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) spokesperson Robiespierre Bolivar had said the Philippines is open about its human rights record.
“So definitely if Secretary Tillerson wishes to raise that, the Philippines has always been open and committed to protecting human rights,” Bolivar had said last Thursday.
However, a DFA statement released last week said the government is ready to address such concerns and correct any misinformation that may have surfaced from reports of the media.
“We welcome the opportunity to address their concerns and correct the perceptions they may have gleaned from exaggerated media reports,” the DFA statement said.
Duterte has called out the US, particularly former President Barack Obama, for criticizing his drug war which resulted in cases of alleged human rights violations and extrajudicial killings.
Meanwhile, this would be the second meeting of Australia’s top diplomat Julie Bishop with Duterte, the first being last March in Duterte’s hometown.
According to Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) Secretary Martin Andanar, Bishop’s visit is proof of the Philippines’ improving alliance with the land down under.
Andanar also recognized Australia’s assistance to the Philippines over the years especially in times of crisis, particularly the ongoing war in Marawi City, Lanao del Sur.
“The Australian government has always been helpful during times of trouble in our country, including the Marawi crisis,” he said in a text message Sunday night.
Tags: Australian government, Balangiga bells, Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), Duterte meets with Tillerson Bishop, human rights violations, Manila Bulletin, Marawi crisis, Presidential Communications Operations Office