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Yasay in US: Don't lecture us on human rights

In this July 1, 2016 file photo, new Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay answers questions from reporters during a press conference in Pasay, Philippines. AP/Aaron Favila

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines' top diplomat on Thursday night defended President Rodrigo Duterte's war on drugs at a security forum in Washington, saying Filipinos are not "little brown brothers" of America and should no longer be taught about human rights.

Asked how the Philippines and the United States will move forward after the canceled meeting between Duterte and US President Barack Obama and the deaths in the drug war, Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay said the two countries should work within the premise of being "sovereign equals."

"We are asking our American friends and American leaders to look at our aspirations, we cannot be forever the little brown brothers of America (as we were) at one point in time. We have matured, we have to develop, we have to grow," Yasay told an influential Washington-based think tank Center for Strategic and International Studies.

He said the partnership with the United States should not be conditional and insisted that the Philippines understands the sanctity of life and freedom, which led to the struggle for independence from America in the 1940s.

"You do not go to the Philippines and say, 'I'm going to give you something. I'm going to help you develop, I'm going to help you grow. But these are the checklists you must comply with. We will lecture you on human rights.' No. We know that our goal toward the full respect for human rights with accordance to international norms," Yasay said.

About 3,500 people have been killed in police operations and by vigilante groups since the start of the Duterte's administration three months ago. Obama had said he would raise this concern on the killings with Duterte on the sidelines of the Southeast Asian summit in Laos last week. Duterte, however, said he would curse at Obama if the issue would be brought up.

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The bilateral meeting between the two leaders was canceled by Washington and prompted Duterte to issue an apology, denying that the harsh words were directed to Obama.

In his address to the forum, Yasay tried to assure Washington that Manila is not condoning unlawful killings.

"In the book of President Duterte and in my book, extrajudicial killing has no place in our society," Yasay said.

The government has announced an adoption of an "independent" foreign policy highlighting national sovereignty and interest. Details of the policy, however, remain to be seen while Duterte has expressed his views against the stay of American troops in Mindanao, parts of which are home to extremists organizations.

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