Expert: Trump’s lack of interest in HR stabilized ties between US and PH
WASHINGTON DC— US President Donald Trump’s lack of interest in human rights (HR) may have helped him establish rapport with President Rodrigo Duterte and stabilize ties between the United States and the Philippines, according to a US policy expert.
But that is not in the long-term interest of the US, said Brian Harding, deputy director for the Southeast Asia program of the Washington-based think-tank Center for Strategic and International Studies.
Speaking to visiting journalists here, Harding said Trump’s uninterested attitude toward the defense of democracy and human rights might have ironically aided the bilateral relationship between the US and the Philippines.
Duterte, known for his firebrand rhetoric, has often lashed out at human rights advocates and critics of his administration’s bloody campaign against illegal drugs.
The Philippine leader had cursed at former US President Barack Obama after the latter’s criticisms of the drug war, but expressed admiration for Trump, who had not publicly rebuked Duterte on human rights.
“So this is actually a place where President Trump’s lack of focus on the rule of law and democracy and human rights is allowing the relationship to be more stable,” he said during a briefing for the 2018 East-West Center Senior Journalists Seminar.
“[But[ I don’t think that is in the long term interest of the United States,” Harding said.
In fact, according to the analyst, goodwill between Duterte and Trump was helping mitigate the former’s anti-US rhetoric.
“And actually my sense is it’s allowing some political forces within the Philippines to help moderate some of President Duterte’s instincts as it relates to the United States,” Harding said.
Since coming to power in 2016, Duterte has steered the Philippines closer to China, the US’ main rival in the Asia Pacific region.
“In general though, I think there is a sense that the Philippines has become a less reliable partner,” Harding said.
He said this was evident in the Philippines’ refusal to assert its victory in the United Nations arbitral ruling invalidating China’s expansive maritime claims in the South China Sea.”
“It’s very difficult to have a clear South China Sea policy when one of two major claimants… is just more focused on making its relationship with China smoother,” Harding said.
“So, I think there was a lot of momentum in the last four years of the Aquino administration that had been lost, but hopefully we can get back to where we were,” he said. /muf
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