Philippines’ Duterte to skip regional summit in Australia

MANILA Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte is skipping a regional summit in Australia this month, his spokesman said yesterday, as he faces international censure for Manila's deadly drug war.

Mr Duterte's decision to snub the meeting comes after he said he would not cooperate with United Nations investigators looking into alleged extrajudicial killings during the narcotics crackdown, which has left thousands dead.

His spokesman Harry Roque confirmed that the outspoken leader would not join fellow Asean leaders for the March 17 and 18 summit in Sydney.

"Developments at home continue to require the President's presence in the Philippines," Mr Roque told reporters.

Australia was among several countries to raise concern about the Philippine anti-drug war's death toll at a UN Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva last year.

Mr Duterte was elected in 2016 on a promise to eradicate drugs, and he launched an unprecedented campaign in which police say they have killed more than 4,100 drug suspects who resisted arrest.

However, rights groups estimate there have been more than 12,000 deaths in all, including people murdered by shadowy vigilante groups.

Mr Duterte, who last week told police and soldiers not to cooperate with any probe, is also facing a preliminary examination by the International Criminal Court over alleged extrajudicial killings.

Mr Duterte would send Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano as his representative to the summit, while he attends the graduation ceremony of the Philippine Military Academy.

Australia is a dialogue partner of the 10-member Asean, of which Singapore is the chair this year. - AFP