Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte used Donald Trump's visit to justify violence against peaceful protesters. And Trump was content to let it happen.
Donald Trump’s controversial meeting with Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte — a murderous dictator who has come under fire for unleashing a “human rights calamity” in his country — just got even worse.
The meeting had already raised eyebrows because of Duterte’s involvement in extrajudicial killings and other human rights atrocities. Just days ago, Duterte bragged about murdering someone and threatened to physically assault a United Nations human rights worker, but Trump wasn’t deterred.
Now, it appears that Duterte has used Trump’s visit to justify violence against peaceful protesters.
According to multiple reports, Duterte ordered his police forces to carry out a brutal crackdown on anti-Trump protesters ahead of Trump’s visit to the U.S. Embassy in Manila.
Dressed in riot gear, the police used water cannons and batons to beat back the protesters before Trump’s arrival at the diplomatic compound.
Unsurprisingly, Trump hasn’t said a word about the violent crackdown, nor about the laundry list of human rights abuses that Duterte has overseen during his time in office.
Claiming to be cracking down on drugs, Duterte has ordered his police forces to kill thousands of people accused of drug crimes without trials. Instead of condemning these atrocities, Trump has praised Duterte’s “unbelievable job on the drug problem,” and told the dictator he’s “a good man” and should “keep up the good work.”
Ahead of his meeting with Trump, Duterte promised that his country will “be the best of friends with America.” In return, Trump and other members of his administration have dropped the issue of human rights during their meetings with Duterte.
On Sunday, White House chief of staff John Kelly acknowledged that human rights were a “hot topic” in the Philippines, but refused to say if he even believed the widely-documented reports of atrocities carried out by Duterte.
Of course, Trump’s disturbing admiration for Duterte is not an anomaly. He engaged in the same shameful pandering and dismissiveness toward state-sanctioned violence when Turkish President Reccep Tayyip Erdoğan came to the U.S.
The Turkish strongman’s guards viciously beat up protestors in Washington, D.C. — yet Trump felt the need to apologize to him for the horrifying event.
And from Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi to Saudi Arabia’s King Salman to, of course, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Trump has repeatedly shown his willingness to cozy up to brutal dictators and ignore the atrocities they’ve carried out.
“Trump seems very comfortable with strongmen. It’s not just that he won’t criticize Duterte. I wouldn’t be surprised if he patted him on the back,” Mike Chinoy, senior fellow at the University of Southern California’s U.S.-China Institute, told the Associated Press on Sunday.
No word on whether Trump gave him a pat on the back — but he did share a champagne toast with the dictator who had just carried out a bloody crackdown in his name.