By Ellson Quismorio
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Tuesday that he brought up concerns over extra-judicial killings (EJKs) and human rights issues in the Philippines during a private conversation with President Duterte and was “frank” about it.
“I actually had an opportunity to have a conversation with President Duterte just before our meeting earlier this morning in which I emphasized the people to people ties between Canada and the Philippines, the great connection there,” Trudeau told reporters covering the 31st Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit at the jam-packed international media center in Pasay City.
“But I also mentioned human rights, the rule of law and specifically, extra-judicial killings as being an issue that Canada is concerned with,” he said.
“Canada has earned a reputation of having strong and sometimes frank…always frank, sometimes firm discussion around rule of law and human rights with partners around the world,” noted the 45-year-old leader, who has a movie star-like following in the Philippines thanks to his good looks.
The current ASEAN chairman, Duterte, came to power 17 months ago on the strength of a vow to eradicate what he described as deeply entrenched illegal drug problem in the archipelago.
Since then, thousands have reportedly been killed, most of them drug suspects. That state agents were allegedly involved in these killings have made Duterte the subject of international criticism the past few months.
Trudeau, who gave French translations to his answers to reporters, underscored the importance of raising these issues to the host president.
“We know that talking about human rights is an essential part of a path forward, it must be done in an honest and frank way, but it has to be done. We have to talk about the high expectation we must have to protect life, to uphold the law and human rights,” he said.
“Canada is a country that always brings up human rights issues ang strongly engages in line with our values anywhere in the world. Countries have accepted that and expect that even of Canada,” he added.
As for the tough-talking Duterte’s reaction to his statements, Trudeau said that the Filipino President “was receptive to my comments and it was throughout was a very cordial and positive exchange.”
In the past, Duterte, a former prosecutor, has had scathing words for people or institutions that question the conduct of his all-out illegal drug war.
“As I mentioned to President Duterte, we are concerned with human rights, we are concerned with extra-judicial killings, impressed upon him the need for respect to the rule of law and as always offered Canada’s support and help as a friend to help move forward on what is the real challenge,” Trudeau said.