Two North American leaders took trips to the Philippines this week and met with President Rodrigo Duterte with completely opposite results. When Donald Trump met with Duterte on the weekend, the Filipino leader serenaded him and the two bonded over jokes at the expense of journalists (and freedom of speech). In fact, the two leaders are not too different (except for the fact that Trump hasn’t committed murder).
Before Duterte became President in Summer 2016, he was mayor of the city of Davao where he supported the extrajudicial killings of an estimated 1,400 people (supposedly mainly criminals and drug dealers) under the guise of a drug crackdown. These people were killed without fair trials and the executions have been condemned by international human rights groups. Duterte has publicly admitted to doing some of those killings himself and to shooting several people while he was still at law school. The president is also known for demonizing and discrediting journalists (like Trump does), making his jokes with the American president about journalists being ‘spies’ more serious than they may initially come across.
Justin Trudeau didn’t seem to create the same instant bond with the Filipino president when the two leaders met on Monday (which is probably a good thing). When asked at a press conference after their bilateral meeting if he addressed human rights issues with Duterte, Trudeau said that he made Canada’s stance clear.
‘I mentioned human rights, the rule of law and specifically extrajudicial killings as being an issue that Canada is concerned with,’ he told journalists, ‘Canada is a country that always brings up human rights issues and strongly engages in line with our values everywhere around the world. Countries around the world have learned to accept that and expect it even, of Canada.’ He went on to say that though we are not perfect, raising these issues is crucial for making reparations.
‘We are the first to mention that we are not perfect either,’ Trudeau continued, ‘That Indigenous peoples in Canada have suffered neglect, marginalization and mistreatment … for centuries. So we know that talking about human rights is an essential part of a path forward. It has to be done in an honest and frank way. But it has to be done. We have to talk about the high expectations we must have to protect life, to uphold the rule of law and human rights.’
Trudeau raises human rights issues with Duterte pic.twitter.com/8xV4WNQBIl
— TIME (@TIME) November 14, 2017
Trudeau later said that during his conversation with the president, Duterte was ‘cordial’ and ‘receptive’ but if he didn’t express displeasure at the time, he sure did after Trudeau had landed back in Canada. In a speech Tuesday, Duterte lashed out at Trudeau for insulting him, even calling the PM’s comments ‘bullshit.’
‘It is a personal and official insult,’ he said, ‘It angers me. When you are a foreigner you do not know exactly what is happening in this country. You don’t even investigate. You only show before the United Nations, the record of how many persons died, you claim to be extrajudicially.’
So it looks like you just can’t win when it comes to global issues. Either you address human rights violations like Trudeau and get told to mind your own business or you completely ignore them like Trump and disappoint your entire country (again).