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Trump asked to ensure $32-million PNP aid not used to violate rights

U.S. President Donald Trump is reflected in glass during the family photo session at the APEC Summit in Danang, Vietnam, Saturday, Nov. 11, 2017. Jorge Silva/Pool Photo via AP

MANILA, Philippines — International human rights organization Amnesty urged President Donald Trump to ensure that any American aid, possibly amounting to $32 million, is not used in the lethal drug operations in the Philippines.

Amnesty International officials on Saturday enumerated its "demands" on the visiting American leader, foremost of which is a repudiation of Duterte's flagship war on drugs during his visit for the ASEAN Summit in Manila.

"The US State Department [should] carefully review and restrict the $32 million in US assistance to the Philippine National Police, taking measures to ensure that their assistance do not support human rights violations specifically in policing the 'war on drugs'," Jose Noel Olano, section director of Amnesty Philippines, said.

The call may fall on deaf ears as Trump has previously been recorded to have lauded Duterte's brutal war on drugs even as it has resulted in the killing of thousands of suspects.

Still, Amnesty hopes that Trump would use the US's "unique leverage and influence" to convince Duterte to recalibrate the brutal campaign and orient it toward a model that would protect the health and rights of Filipinos.

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"President Trump has talked about his ability to talk tough with foreign leaders, and this week's ASEAN summit presents a renewed opportunity," Olano said.

The US State Department and Trump should also support the efforts of human rights groups and activists and the Philippine Commission on Human Rights to document human rights abuses and give justice to victims and their families, according to the group.

The American leader should also resist any attempt by Philippine authorities to impose a tax on human rights defenders, Olano added.

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Recently, two US lawmakers urged Trump to take advantage of the ASEAN meetings next week to express Washington's "profound concern" over the rights situation in the Philippines.

Mounting calls for US action

Reps. James McGovern (D-Massachusetts) and Randy Hultgren (R-Illinois) said that Trump should stress their country's firm adherence to human rights, due process and the rule of law.

Duterte reacted angrily to the statement of the two lawmakers, warning them that he would place them on the country's watch list order which would effectively bar them from entering the Philippines.

According to human rights groups and activists, between 7,000 to 12,000 drug-related killings have occurred in the Philippines since Duterte assumed the presidency in June last year.

Philippine officials have denied this, saying that the figure is inaccurate as some of the killings were perpetrated by other criminals and are still under investigation.

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