Duterte to meet Obama over war on drugs

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Manila, Aug 31 (IANS) US President Barack Obama and Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte will meet next week amid international concern over a three-month-old crackdown on drugs that has claimed more than 2,000 lives, officials said on Wednesday.

White House Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes said on Monday that during a meeting on September 6 Obama was expected to bring up issues of human rights and the recent arbitral ruling on the South China Sea maritime dispute, EFE news reported.

The two will meet on the sidelines of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) summit in Laos next week.

“The meeting would encompass both concerns about statements made by the President of the Philippines and our commitment to supporting human rights, and all efforts that are undertaken bilaterally, and … discussing the regional picture, particularly with a focus on the maritime issues,” Rhodes said.

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Duterte on Monday announced he would place a bounty of 2 million Philippine pesos (around $43,000) on those police officials protecting the drug trade and said he would take full responsibility for his war against illegal drugs.

According to police data submitted to a Senate investigation on August 23 by Philippine National Police (PNP) Director General Ronald dela Rosa, at least 756 persons were killed during anti-drug police operations and 1,160 more by unknown assailants — many of whom were vigilantes — between July 1 and August 23.

The crackdown and resultant extrajudicial killings have drawn widespread international criticism, with the UN calling on Duterte to end the wave of killings.

The US State Department has also expressed “deep concern” over the killings and cited the need for the Philippines to uphold the rule of law.

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