Donald Trump—whose insane and haphazard calls to foreign leaders have already led one diplomat to refer to our president-elect, terrifyingly, as a “bull in a nuclear china shop”—has reportedly participated in a “very engaging, animated talk” with Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, according to a Duterte aide. Reuters reports that Duterte, who recently called President Obama a “son of a bitch” and appears to be more-or-less openly overseeing a mass murder campaign, received an invite to the White House.
In a report on Trump’s myriad conflicts of interest around the globe, the New York Times noted that Philippine developer Jose E.B. Antonio, whom Duterte recently named special envoy to the United States, is partners with Donald Trump on a real estate project in Manila. Antonio flew to Trump Tower for a private meeting with Trump’s children following the election.
Duterte and Trump have often been held in comparison—both men were elected in an anti-democratic backlash, and both flatter Russia, make horrifying statements that upset the long-established diplomatic order, and scare the shit out of anyone with a brain. Even apart from their business ties, it’s not a big surprise that things appear to be genial between the two, although it certainly does make a person want to dig a hole in the ground and climb in.
A timely and excellent report from the New Yorker’s Adrian Chen, published right after the election, took a deep dive into the current situation in the Philippines, where President Duterte enjoys a 76 percent approval rating:
Duterte does not, as he has put it, “give a shit” about human rights, which he sees as a Western obsession that keeps the Philippines from taking the action necessary to clean up the country. He is also hypersensitive to criticism. “Duterte’s weakness is, really, he’s a tough guy,” Greco Belgica, a Filipino politician and an ally of Duterte’s, said. “You do not talk down to a tough guy. He’ll snap.”
Since he took office, over 3,600 (mostly poor) people have been killed extrajudicially by police and vigilantes in Duterte’s so-called war on drugs (Duterte says that poor people are easier targets, since they aren’t doing drugs on private planes); according to the New Yorker, Duterte has himself implied he is involved with the Davao Death Squad.
According to Chen, in September, a man who claimed to be a former member of the Davao Death Squad said he had personally killed 50 people, and that he had seen Duterte murder an agent from the National Bureau of Investigations (Duterte denies this).
Welcome to Washington, Rodrigo!