PH-U.S. joint statement: Human rights are essential

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, November 14) — President Rodrigo Duterte and U.S. President Donald Trump pledged to include human rights in their national agenda and to promote the welfare of the poor during their bilateral talks, according to their joint statement after the meeting.

"The two sides underscored that human rights and the dignity of human life are essential, and agreed to continue mainstreaming the human rights agenda in their national programs to promote the welfare of all sectors including the most vulnerable groups," it said.

The statement dated November 13 and released Tuesday said that the two met in Manila "to discuss a broad range of shared interests and priorities."

The White House and Malacanang Palace previously released conflicting reports on whether or not the two leaders discussed the controversial topic on human rights  in talks at the sidelines of the 31st Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said Monday that the issue was not brought up.

But White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said it was tackled during their 40-minute discussion.

Read: Malacañang, White House release conflicting statements on human rights discussion

The joint statement also confirmed Roque's statement that Duterte and Trump discussed the Philippines' ongoing anti-drug campaign.

"Both sides acknowledged that illegal drug use is a problem afflicting both countries and committed to share best practices in the areas of prevention; enforcement, including capacity building and transparency in investigations, and rehabilitation," it read.

The Duterte administration's drug war has been hit by local and international human rights advocates, including former U.S. President Barack Obama, for the spate of drug-related killings involving the police.

Rights groups believe the number of drug-related deaths have reached 13,000, but authorities claim it's below 4,000.