President-elect Donald Trump wished the Philippines well in its bloody war on drugs during a call with President Rodrigo Duterte Friday, according to statements by the Philippine leader.
Duterte said in a video that Mr. Trump was “quite sensitive” to the nation’s controversial drug crackdown, which has resulted in thousands of extrajudicial killings since June, when Duterte first took office.
“[Trump] wishes me well in my campaign and said that we are doing it as a sovereign nation, the right way,” Duterte said of the Friday call, in which he described an “animated” president-elect.
“I could sense a good rapport,” the Philippines leader said. “He was wishing me success in my campaign on the drug problem. He understood the way we are handling it and he said that there’s nothing wrong in protecting your country.”
Duterte said he appreciated the call from Mr. Trump -- who Duterte has posited in the past that he could be friendly with -- and also wished the incoming U.S. leader success.
During his own contentious campaign for the Philippines presidency, Duterte had promised to use law enforcement to hunt down drug traffickers and users, warning the country was at risk to become a “narco state.”
“When I become president, I’ll order the police and the military to find these people and kill them,” Duterte vowed during his campaign in March. “The funeral parlors will be packed.”
Since his inauguration, the Philippines president has made good on that promise, launching an anti-drug operation called “Double Barrel” which has taken the lives of nearly 5,000 people, according to Duterte.
The Trump transition team released its own statement on the Friday call between the two leaders, mentioning none of the details Duterte offered.
“President Rodrigo Roa Duterte of the Philippines offered his congratulatory wishes to President-elect Trump,” the readout said. “In their conversation, they noted the long history of friendship and cooperation between the two nations, and agreed that the two governments would continue to work together closely on matters of shared interest and concern.”
Reuters reported the president-elect also invited Duterte to visit the White House during their phone conversation.
Under the Philippines’ new leadership, anxiety has blossomed over whether the U.S. and the Philippines, closely allied nations, would maintain its relationship.
Duterte, known for his anti-U.S. stance, has previously blasted President Obama and the State Department for their condemnation of his drug war’s gang-land style killings. Duterte famously once said in a speech that Mr. Obama can “go to hell” and has called the U.S. leader a “son of a whore.”