Philippines’ Duterte on Trump’s White House invitation: ‘I’m tied up’
Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte said he could not commit to visiting the White House after President Trump invited him this weekend, saying “I am tied up.”
“I cannot make any definite promise. I am supposed to go to Russia; I am supposed to go to Israel,” he said, according to Yahoo News.
Trump’s invitation to Duterte, who has been accused of backing the vigilante execution of people involved in the drug trade and threatening journalists and political opponents, drew criticism from human rights groups. He invited the controversial leader to the White House without consulting the State Department or the National Security Council.
“By essentially endorsing Duterte’s murderous war on drugs, Trump is now morally complicit in future killings,” John Sifton of Human Rights Watch told the New York Times.
Duterte said that, while he couldn’t commit to accepting Trump’s invitation, relations between the Philippines and the U.S. have changed since Trump took office.
“It was not a distancing [of relations] but it was rather a rift between me and the State Department and Mr. Obama, who spoke openly against me,” he said.
Relations between Duterte and former President Obama were strained during the last administration, with Duterte frequently insulting Obama’s mother.