President Trump has once again raised eyebrows amongst foreign policy and human rights observers with his latest call to Rodrigo Duterte, the president of the Philippines.
According to the White House readout of their phone call, Trump invited Duterte to the White House to “discuss the importance of the U.S.-Philippines alliance, which is now heading in a very positive direction.”
This would all be well and good if Duterte wasn’t a murderous dictator who has, in the past, ruthlessly insulted the office of the American president and called for the mass killings of his own people.
The Philippine president is known for his ruthless and deadly prosecution of his country’s war on drugs. During his campaign for president, Duterte promised to kill tens of thousands of criminals as a way to eradicate crime.
Shortly after being sworn in last year, Duterte called upon his people to resort to vigilante justice and murder citizens struggling with drug addiction.
“If you know of any addicts, go ahead and kill them yourself as getting their parents to do it would be too painful,” Duterte told an audience in Manila last year.
In another speech, he said of drug dealers in his country: “These sons of whores are destroying our children. I warn you, don’t go into that, even if you’re a policeman, because I will really kill you.”
In addition to his loose language on extrajudicial killings, Duterte has bragged that he has personally murdered three people. While serving as mayor of Davao City, Duterte said he took the law into his own hands and killed three accused kidnappers. From June to early December, Duterte’s war on drugs has resulted in the deaths of around 4,800 people, according to the Philippine president.
Last year, Rodrigo Duterte made waves in showing overwhelming disrespect for the American president. The Philippine president called former President Barack Obama a “son of a whore.” His remarks came following Obama’s insistence that Duterte be held accountable for encouraging extrajudicial killings within his nation.
So why has President Trump decided to give Duterte a free pass? The answer may lie in his real estate portfolio.
The Trump organization has licensed the family namesake to a $150 million development called Trump Tower Manila. The licensing deal has secured millions of dollars for the Trump organization, according to The New York Times.
President Trump, his family, and business associates have been heavily involved in marketing the Manila condominium building.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 24, 2013
Trump Tower at Century City brings luxury to Makati, the financial & social capital of Philippines http://t.co/xGYO2vawfq
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 6, 2013
The new luxury high-rise was recently visited by Eric Trump and Donald Trump Jr. to commemorate the building's structural completion. Ivanka Trump has described the property as “exquisite” and “flawless.”
Moreover, the builder of Trump Tower Manila, Jose E.B. Antonio, is the Philippine trade envoy to the United States. He was appointed to the position in November, just three weeks after America’s presidential election.
Another possible explanation for the Trump-Duterte alliance is that the American president respects the Philippine strongman for his willingness to engage in controversial measures.
In December, Trump argued that Duterte was fighting the war on drugs “the right way.” When Duterte called Trump to congratulate him on winning the election, Trump reportedly wished him “success” in his crackdown.
Nonetheless, there is nothing “America first” about inviting a man who prosecutes a war on drugs by encouraging the extrajudicial killings of men, women, and children in his country. By formally inviting Rodrigo Duterte to the White House, the president whitewashes the extreme human rights violations committed daily by the Philippine autocrat.