Duterte has been a controversial figure since taking office as president last year, and launching a war on drugs that has killed at least 3,900 people in the Philippines.
His administration has said that those carrying out the killings have been acting in self defense, but many have condemned the extrajudicial slayings as a major human rights violation.
When White House reporters traveling with Trump asked whether the issue of human rights had come up at a meeting between the two presidents Monday, both Trump and Duterte declined to respond.
“Whoa, whoa,” Duterte said, according to a report from the White House press pool. “This not a press statement. This is the bilateral meeting.” Duterte then called the reporters “spies,” which made Trump laugh.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders later said that the subject of human rights briefly came up during Trump’s meeting with Duterte in the context of the Philippines’ fight against illegal drugs.
Michelle Broder Van Dyke is a reporter and night editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in Hawaii.
Contact Michelle Broder Van Dyke at email@example.com.
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