President Trump is seeking closer and friendlier relations with the Philippines and communicated this to Rodrigo Duterte in a phone call. During this conversation it is reported that Trump spoke of Washington’s commitment to their treaty alliance and that he was interested in a warm working relationship with the Philippine president. The invitation has raised concerns due to Duterte’s human rights record but Donald Trump's chief of staff, Priebus, defended the president’s action saying that friendlier ties were needed, notwithstanding the human rights concerns.

An invitation to the White House

A call to the President of the Philippines on Saturday was described as very friendly by a white house spokesman. He also said that the U.S. and Philippine alliance is headed in a positive direction. Priebus noted that even though human rights matter, this call was about North Korea. A spokesperson for Rodrigo Duterte, Ernie Abella, revealed that the discussions between the two presidents was warm. Trump expressed his appreciation and understanding of the challenges faced by Duterte, particularly in relation to dangerous drugs. The source stated that Trump invited the Philippine president to visit the White House and indicated that he will be visiting the Philippines in November for the East Asia summit.

Comparisons between Trump and Duterte

Much like Donald Trump, Duerte made several outrageous statements during his campaign for president. His brashness led to comparisons to Trump who was also in the midst of a campaign filled with controversial statements and pronouncements. Donald Trump talked about building a wall to keep Mexicans out, draining the swamp and the banning of Muslims.

Duerte was known for his controversial methods used in fighting crime in his role as mayor for which he was nicknamed “the punisher” He reportedly allowed the actions of vigilante death squads that murdered more than 1,000 suspected gang members and drug dealers in a 20 year time period. During his campaign for president he said he would massacre criminals and joked about the rape of an Australian missionary.

The North Korean concern a basis for friendship

The new friendship being forged between Trump and Duerte is said to be the result of concerns about a North Korean threat. Priebus stated that Trump’s primary concern was the North Korean threat that requires cooperation with Asian countries in the region. However, at a news conference on Saturday, the Philippine President suggested that the Trump administration should be the one to back off in order to avoid a nuclear holocaust He further said that America should not be caught up in the North Korean provocations and should be prudent and patient.

Human Rights abuse concerns and understanding from Trump

In his conversation with Rodrigo Duterte, Donald Trump expressed his understanding of the challenges of drugs in the Philippines.

Trump hard line on drugs and crime is evidenced in his signing of three executive orders on crime after his Attorney General Jeff Sessions was sworn in, with the aim of reducing crimes including, illegal immigration, drug trafficking, combating drug cartels and violent crimes.

The budding friendship and understanding between Duterte and Trump is In sharp contrast to Philippines president's combative relationship with President Obama during his term. Towards the end of Obama’s presidency, he did not express an understanding for drug problem in the Philippines, but instead criticized the leader for his bloody ant-drug crackdown. Duerte’s response to the criticism was “go to hell”