Much of the world is condemning President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines but it seems President-elect Donald Trump may be the exception. Duterte said on Saturday that Trump had given his seal of approval to his world-infamous crackdown on drugs, which has been widely condemned for its violence that includes extra judicial killings. Duterte said that Trump called his fight against drugs “the right way” to combat the problem. He noted that Trump “was wishing me success in my campaign against the drug problem,” according to a statement. “He understood the way we are handling it and I said that there’s nothing wrong in protecting a country.”
Duterte said the conversation with Trump was “very encouraging” because “I supposed that what he really wanted to say was that we would be the last to interfere in the affairs of your own country.” That part of the conversation wasn’t included in the video that Duterte’s office released of the conversation in which the Philippines leader can be heard saying: “We will maintain … and enhance the bilateral ties between our two countries.”
Duterte talked to reporters on Saturday, giving more details about the conversation with Trump the previous day that had already raised eyebrows due to claims that the president-elect had invited the Philippines leader to Washington.
Trump has yet to comment on Duterte’s version of the conversation. But if he did praise the leader’s violent war on drugs it would mark quite a departure from current policy as Washington has been highly critical of the crackdown, which has killed more than 4,000 suspected drug dealers and users.
Although Duterte is likely over-interpreting Trump’s support for his crackdown, a source who has advised Trump’s transition team tells Reuters that the president-elect does plan to start with a “clean slate” with the man who infamously called President Obama a “son of a whore.” “He is perfectly capable of talking to Duterte in an open way without being wedded to previous policy failures,” the source said of Trump.