US President Barack Obama on Thursday said the American government wants to partner with the Philippines in going after drug traffickers, but noted that a possible partnership should be in consonance with human rights and international law.
As I said in China, we want to partner with the Philippines in the particular issue of narco-traffickers, which is a serious problem in the Philippines, in the United States and around the world. We want to make sure that the partnership we have is consistent with international norms and rule of law,” Obama said in a televised press conference in Laos, the site of this year’s Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) summit.
“So we’re not going to back off our position that when we are working with a country, whether it’s about terrorism or going after drug traffickers, it is important from our perspective that we do it the right way,” he added.
Obama was responding to a question on Duterte’s expletive-laced remarks against him, which the US President said he did not take personally.
Confirming a brief meeting before a gala dinner at the regional summit on Wednesday, Obama said he told Duterte that their teams should to discuss how they can work on a spectrum of issues.
“I don’t take these comments personally because it seems this is a phrase he has used repeatedly, including directed to the Pope and others. I think it seems to be just a habit, a way of speaking for him,” Obama said.
“I did shake hands with President Duterte last night. It was not a long interaction, and what I indicated to him was just my team should be meeting with and determine how we can move forward on a range of issues.”
Before leaving for Laos, Duterte said he will swear at Obama in the Asean summit if the US President would question him on human rights and extrajudicial killings.
Duterte’s expletive-laced remarks against Obama, for which he eventually expressed regret, prompted the White House to cancel the planned meeting between the two last Tuesday.
In his speech at the Asean-US summit, Obama reiterated that countries in the region should promote respect for human rights, as he called for a peaceful resolution of the South China Sea dispute.