MANILA - Malacañang on Monday asserted that United States President Donald Trump did not raise the issue of human rights when he met with President Rodrigo Duterte during their first bilateral meeting.
This even as a White House official said the matter was "briefly" tackled during the meeting between the two leaders.
“There was no mention of human rights [issues]. There was no mention of EJKs (extrajudicial killings),” Roque said in a news conference.
Roque said that while the human rights topic was not brought up, it was the Filipino leader who raised discussions on the war on drugs.
He said what took place was a “rather lengthy discussion” of the Philippines’ war on drugs “with President Duterte doing most of the explaining.”
The presidential spokesperson added that Trump, based on his body language, “seemed to be in agreement” with Duterte’s assertions.
“He (Trump) made the assurance that President Duterte has a friend in the person of President Trump, that he is an ally since he was elected into office,” Roque said.
White House spokesperson Sarah Sanders meanwhile said the issue was discussed by the two leaders.
“Human rights briefly came up in the context of the Philippines’ fight against illegal drugs,” Sanders said.
Human rights groups had urged Trump to raise in his meeting with Duterte human rights concerns over the Philippines’ war on drugs.
Per police figures, over 3,800 deaths have been recorded in anti-drug operations since July 2016.
Human rights groups dispute the count, saying the death toll in the fierce anti-drug campaign could be as high as 13,000.
The administration has repeatedly defended the drug war, saying it does not sanction summary killings nor condone police abuses.
Earlier, Duterte had expressed confidence that Trump would not take up the issue with him.
“Not extrajudicial killing. Well, he cannot afford it. We do not talk about these things because, first of all, they are not true; and the second is, we do not do it,” Duterte said on Sunday upon his arrival from the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit in Vietnam.
The US is a long-term ally of the Philippines, helping the Southeast Asian country deal with various problems ranging from deadly natural disasters to terrorism in Mindanao.
During the bilateral meeting, Trump cited the “great relationship” between the US and the Philippines and thanked the host country for "the great treatment you have given us."