The Philippines is making headlines on two fronts: First, somebody leaked a transcript of President Trump's phone call to Filipino counterpart Rodrigo Duterte last month. Second, Duterte, already renowned for his brutal crackdown on drugs, is considering imposing martial law nationwide as his troops battle militants linked to ISIS. The details:
- Praise on drugs: “I just wanted to congratulate you because I am hearing of the unbelievable job on the drug problem," Trump told him. "Many countries have the problem, we have a problem, but what a great job you are doing and I just wanted to call and tell you that.” Duterte has been criticized by human rights groups for essentially declaring open season on drug dealers and users. Troops and vigilantes have killed an estimated 6,000 drug dealers since July, per the State Department, notes the Washington Post.
- Swipe at Obama? Duterte called drugs the "scourge of my nation," and Trump said he understood, adding, "I think we had a previous president who did not understand that."
- North Korea: “We can’t let a madman with nuclear weapons let on the loose like that. We have a lot of firepower, more than he has, times 20—but we don’t want to use it," Trump said. He asked Duterte if he thought Kim were "stable or not stable," and Duterte said unstable, adding that China is the "ace" card to be played. "It's only China."
- Not-so-secret submarines: Trump told Duterte the US had "a lot of firepower over there," referring to the Korean peninsula, and he specifically mentioned two nuclear submarines, "the best in the world." The revelation is likely to raise more questions about Trump's handling of sensitive information, notes Reuters.
- Transcript: Here is the transcript of the phone call, from the Intercept.
- Trump's style: The New York Times says it sheds light on how he deals with fellow leaders: "He sounds much the way he sounds in public, casing issues in largely black-and-white terms, often praising authoritarian leaders, largely unconcerned about human rights violations and genuinely uncertain about the nature of his adversary in North Korea."
- Hostages: Duterte has declared martial law in the southern island of Mindanao after militants affiliated with ISIS raided the city of Marawi. The militants took a Catholic priest and 13 others hostage, and thousands of civilians were fleeing the violence. The CBC has details. Mindanao also happens to be Duterte's native island in the archipelago.
- Nationwide? Duterte hinted he might expand martial law nationwide after suggesting ISIS also was showing strength in the northern island of Luzon, reports Bloomberg.
- Ominous quote: "If I think you should die, you will die. If you fight us, you will die. If there's an open defiance you will die and if it means many people dying, so be it. That's how it is," said Duterte, per Reuters.
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