Human rights groups condemn Trump's 'warm rapport' with Philippine leader

The US president is being criticized for his eagerness to meet with Rodrigo Duterte, who is accused of presiding over mass killings in Philippine war on drugs

The White House has been condemned by human rights watchdogs after stating that Donald Trump enjoys “a warm rapport” with Rodrigo Duterte, the Philippine president whose war on drugs has led to thousands of extrajudicial killings.

Thousands dead: the Philippine president, the death squad allegations and a brutal drugs war

The US president is set to meet Duterte during a trip to Asia from 3 to 14 November that is likely to be overshadowed by the North Korean nuclear crisis.

“President Duterte, he’s spoken with, they’ve had exchanges of letters,” a senior administration official told reporters on Tuesday. “I think there’s a warm rapport there, and he’s very much looking forward to his first in-person meeting with President Duterte.”

US-Filipino relations are “still very robust”, the official added, including areas such as counter-terrorism and human rights. “And so the president will have frank and friendly discussions in his first meeting with Mr Duterte.”

Trump has long been criticised for betraying an apparent admiration for strongmen including Russian president Vladimir Putin, China’s Xi Jinping, Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi of Egypt and Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey.

Duterte is accused of presiding over mass killings at the hands of vigilantes and state sanctioned death squads and once said: “Just because you’re a journalist, you are not exempted from assassination, if you’re a son of a bitch.”

He is also notorious for his often expletive-laden tirades against the US, calling Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama a “son of a whore”.