November 25, 2017 | MANILA, PHILIPPINES

Trump, Tillerson to visit the Philippines

UNITED States President Donald J. Trump and his Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson are both set to visit the Philippines this year, American officials said.

Mr. Trump is slated to attend the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit in November, which will be held in the Philippines, as confirmed by US Vice President Michael Pence.

In his remarks during his visit to the ASEAN headquarters in Jakarta, Indonesia on Thursday, Mr. Pence said that Mr. Trump told him that morning that chief executive would attend the US-ASEAN summit, the East Asia Summit, and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Leader’s meeting, to be held in the Philippines and Vietnam on November.

“It is a testament to the value that President Trump places on the US-ASEAN strategic partnership and the Asia Pacific as a whole. And it’s a sign, I hope, to all of our firm and unwavering commitment to build on the strong foundation that we already share,” Mr. Pence said.

Meanwhile, Mr. Tillerson is also expected to visit the Philippines in August for the ASEAN Regional Forum, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Southeast Asia Patrick Murphy said in a press briefing on Thursday.

ASEAN foreign ministers were also invited to meet with the secretary in Washington on May 4, he added.

“With all of these engagements and interlocutors and partners and allies, the discussions are very wide-ranging,” Mr. Murphy said. “We’re talking about trade. We’re talking about security, how we work together to address a whole range of threats, like proliferation; terrorism; maritime disputes; trafficking of all nature -- trafficking in persons, in illicit narcotics, and in wildlife; infectious disease; law enforcement; and the like.”

During the same briefing, Mr. Murphy also expressed a “very sustained and deep concern when elements of the drug war are operating outside the rule of law.”

“The growing number of extrajudicial killings is troubling... We have raised those concerns publicly and privately, and we will continue to do so,” Mr. Murphy added. “And Secretary Tillerson, now that he is Secretary -- there is a distinction between being a nominee and being the Secretary -- is our leader on this policy.”

During his confirmation hearing at the US Senate, Mr. Tillerson withheld comment about President Duterte’s bloody anti-drug campaign, earning the criticism of several US senators Edward Markey, Marco Rubio, and Christopher Coons. Instead, Mr. Tillerson said that he would still need more “facts from the ground” before commenting on the issue.

In a statement yesterday, Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto C. Abella, agreed with Mr. Murphy’s statement on the existence of elements of the drug war operating outside the rule of law.

He reiterated that the alleged almost 9,000 deaths related to Mr. Duterte’s anti-drug campaign, is false news.

“For the period 01 July 2016 to 24 March 2017, the police has accounted for 6,011 homicide cases under investigation (formerly called deaths under investigation),” Mr. Abella explained. “Of this number, only 1,398 cases are found to be drug-related contrary to news reports that there are now close to 9,000 killed connected with the campaign against illegal drugs.”

“We expect fairness and not a rush to judgment. We ask to be understood not just from a single perspective, but from the point of view of Filipinos who desire change, stability and fairness,” the Presidential Spokesperson said. -- Lucia Edna P. de Guzman