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Duterte, US envoy meet to discuss drug war, CHR budget

US Ambassador Sung Kim expressed understanding on the “challenges” faced by President Rodrigo Duterte in solving the country’s drug menace during their meeting in the presidential palace on Sept. 20. Krizjohn Rosales/File

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday met with United States Ambassador to the Philippines Sung Kim, where the leader defended the government’s deadly drug war and the recent move of his allies in Congress to give the Commission on Human Rights a P1,000 budget.

According to a press release issued by Malacañang, Kim expressed understanding on the “challenges” faced by Duterte in solving the country’s drug menace during their meeting in the presidential palace.

The Palace added that Kim “further stressed” to Duterte the need to investigate drug-related deaths “to ensure continued people's confidence in the government.”

Duterte, in turn, reiterated his commitment to fight the “vicious and toxic” illegal drug trade, which the firebrand leader said could destroy a “fragile Philippine Republic,” the Palace also said.

Citing his order to immediately arrest the Caloocan City cops involved in the August 17 killing of 17-year-old schoolboy Kian delos Santos, Duterte assured the American diplomat that he “never condoned” abusive police officers.

“The President in response, said the anti-drug operations of the police have always been in line with the rule of law,” the Palace said.

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Duterte easily won the race to Malacañang last year on a platform of weeding out crime and corruption by taking on a national level the tough measures he imposed during his long mayoralty in Davao City, including his bloody war on drugs. The campaign remains hugely popular, according to surveys, despite condemnations from human rights watchers at home and abroad.

Duterte has also thrown his extraordinary support behind the police force carrying out the crackdown, promising to pardon them if they are convicted to keep them out of jail.

But with the public outrage generated by the killing of the teenager, Duterte was prompted to meet Delos Santos’ parents in Malacañang and assured them of justice.

On August 22, Kim extended his sympathies to the family of Delos Santos. He took to Twitter to express hope that the investigations will lead to "full accountability."

Duterte explains CHR’s P1,000 budget

In the same meeting on Wednesday, the Palace said Duterte also took the occasion to explain to Kim the House of Representatives' vote to give CHR an appropriation of only P1,000 for 2018.

“Also tackled during the meeting was the recent issue involving the Commission on Human Rights. The Chief Executive clarified that he never directed Congress to cut the agency’s budget, adding that he cannot control the decisions of the legislative body,” the statement said.

“He then reiterated his invitation to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights (UNCHR) to put up a satellite office in the country and conduct independent probes on alleged cases of human rights violations,” it added.

House to restore budgets of agencies givern P1,000

Amid simmering public anger, the House panel on appropriations said it had been given "the green light" to restore the budget of the CHR and two other government agencies given a P1,000 budget.

Duterte earlier suggested using the budget taken away from the commission to buy body cameras for policemen as his crackdown on illegal drugs and crime faces intense public scrutiny following the successive deaths of teenagers.

Ties between Manila and Washington soured during the Obama administration, which vehemently condemned Duterte’s brutal war on drugs.

But the two countries’ relations improved after President Donald Trump, whom critics accused of endorsing Manila’s controversial anti-drug campaign, praised Duterte for doing a “great” job in fighting illegal drugs.

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