Duterte praises Trump for proposing 'death penalty' for drug dealers

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 2) — President Rodrigo Duterte lauded U.S. President Donald Trump's proposal for harsher punishments for drug offenses in the United States.

"He would like to follow Duterte because they have no problem in the Philippines, he just killed them," Duterte said, quoting media reports, in a speech at a police and military event Thursday.

"Tama ka talaga, Trump," he added. "Bilib ako sa'yo. Nagsasabi ka ng totoo."

[Translation: You're absolutely right, Trump. I believe in you. You're telling the truth.]

A report from U.S. news site Axios said Trump has been inspired by the policies of Singapore, citing their low rates of drug use and their executions of drug dealers.

Read: Axios: Trump discussing death penalty for big drug dealers

"He often jokes about killing drug dealers....He'll say, 'You know the Chinese and Filipinos don't have a drug problem. They just kill them,'" a senior Trump administration official told Axios.

In a Thursday opioid summit in the White House, Trump said drug dealers should get the "ultimate penalty."

Read: Trump advocates 'the ultimate penalty' for drug dealers during opioid summit

"Some countries have a very, very tough penalty. The ultimate penalty. And by the way, they have much less of a drug problem than we do. So we're going to have to be very strong on penalties," Trump said.

The White House did not immediately respond to CNN's follow-up questions about what exactly Trump meant.

Trump could also back legislation that would require people convicted of dealing as little as two grams of the synthetic opioid fentanyl to receive a five-year mandatory jail sentence, according to the Axios report.

U.S. law currently requires that sentence for those who deal 40 or more grams of the drug.

Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway believes some of the President's ideas would have support.

"There is an appetite among many law enforcement, health professionals and grieving families that we must toughen up our criminal and sentencing statutes to match the new reality of drugs like fentanyl, which are so lethal in such small doses," she told Axios.

Duterte said in October 2017 he predicted Trump's declaration of a national health emergency for the U.S. opioid epidemic after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that around 64,000 people died from drug overdoses in 2016.

Trump called for the liberation of American communities from the "scourge of drug addiction."

Read: Duterte says he predicted U.S. crackdown on opioid

"Kaya sinasabi ko eh. Kayo kasi you take time. You take time ma-realize ninyo na ano. Eh ako matagal na dito nakita. Mayor pa ako, nakita ko na 'yung devastation," Duterte said.

[Translation: I've been telling you. You guys take time. You take time to realize it. I've known it for a long time-- ever since I was a mayor, I'd seen the devastation.]

In December 2016, Duterte said he sensed good rapport with "an animated President-elect Trump," who told him over the phone that he supported the Philippines' controversial drug war.

Read: Duterte: Trump supports the Philippines' drug war

The Duterte administration's drug war has been criticized by local and international human rights groups since it began in 2016, when Duterte took office.

While government data show around 4,000 drug suspects were killed in operations, the groups believe the number to be as high as 13,000 — including those killed in vigilante-style executions.

Related: War vs. poor: Police paid per drug killing - Amnesty International

CNN's Elizabeth Landers and Aileen Graef contributed to this report.