Trump discuss human rights?

Philippines spokesman says it was not discussed with Duterte

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Donald Trump can be judged on the company he keeps and the friends he makes

By Daniel J. McLaughlin

"You must be respectful," Rodrigo Duterte warned Barack Obama last year, "Do not just throw away questions and statements. Son of a whore, I will curse you in that forum."

The Filipino president was responding to a question from a reporter on how he would respond to the subject of extrajudicial killings in his country’s brutal drug war. The former US president cancelled the meeting between the pair.

His successor, however, is embracing the firebrand, who was nicknamed the 'Trump of the East' after they shared the same brash-talking, populist approach to politics. Duterte said he would tell Trump to "lay off" if the US president raised the issue of human rights - and he seems to have duly obliged.

Trump is not a "son of a whore" as the pair "really hit it off", according to Duterte's communications secretary, during the last leg of his Asia tour. The Filipino president even serenaded world leaders at the Association of South East Asian Nations summit, supposedly "upon the orders of the commander-in-chief of the United States". The love song, Ikaw (You), included the lyrics: "You are the light in my world, a half of this heart of mine."

As well as songs and platitudes, Trump and Duterte also shared "jokes", at the expense of journalists. CNN criticises Trump laughing at Duterte calling the media "spies", noting that context is important to their exchange with the press. Trump tolerating - not to mention laughing at his "joke" - is really bad, they argue. They note that, in June 2016, following the murders of two Filipino journalists, the Philippines president said: "Just because you're a journalist, you are not exempted from assassination if you're a son of a bitch. Freedom of expression cannot help you if you have done something wrong."

The Philippines is one of the most dangerous countries in the world for journalists. Since 1992, 78 journalists have been killed, making it the third highest level behind only Iraq (186) and Syria (114).

By ignoring human rights issues, along with the disregard for journalists, Trump's Asia trip shows that he is far from being a global leader, the Independent argues, and that he is being played. The excessive flattery is working for the likes of Russia, China and others, with the president "pulling punches when flattered and throwing them when riled". The usually brash president "evidently felt it was a little impertinent to be so rude" - with the Independent sarcastically adding: "He is, after all, always wary of causing offence."

Unlike his predecessors, Donald Trump does not mind making human rights last at the expense of making America first. While he may be making friends in high places, the president perhaps needs to consider the quality of those friends.

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