The head of Australia's most senior intelligence officer made headlines today when in a courtesy call in Malacañan he posed with President Rodrigo Roa Duterte with a clenched fist.
General Nick Warner is Australia’s Secret Intelligence Service Director who paid a courtesy call on the President has received criticisms over his “fist bump” photo with the Philippine President.
Human rights group, said the photo gave the impression that Canberra was condoning drug-related killings under the firebrand President's anti-narcotics war.
|President Duterte's signature " clenched fist " pose shown here with Australia's Secret Intelligence Service Director General Nick Warner (photo credit to Malacañan)|
Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella, however, described the incident as a "lighthearted" moment between the two officials.
“It wasn’t meant to be in any way political. It was simply a show of... it was just a warming of relationships,” Abella said in a news conference in Malacañang.
Elaine Pearson, Human Rights Watch Australia director, said on Twitter that it was “sickening to see [the] head of Australia’s spy agency fist-pumping a man who has instigated the killing of thousands,” adding that “a photo like this adds insult to injury to Filipino victims [and] the families of those killed in Duterte's drug war.”
“That is the perspective of [HRW] Australia. But as far as…the situation went…it was a warm situation. It was very relational.” Abella said in response to the twit of Elaine Pearson.
Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop who recently also visited the country said Warner was just complying with a request from President Duterte and that the image did not weaken Canberra's criticism of Duterte's war on drugs.
Duterte’s clenched fist pose has been his signature post during the presidential campaign last year, where he vowed to address the ills of the country specifically on the issue of drugs, criminality and corruption in government. *
"On both occasions that I've met with President Duterte, I've raised the issue of human rights and the extrajudicial killings," Bishop told reporters in Perth in western Australia.
"Australia is sending mixed messages amid an incredible spike in killings of the Philippines poorest people," said Michael Hayworth, human rights campaigner at Amnesty International.
"Australia must condemn in the strongest terms the killings by Philippines police of people without trial," he added.
Since Duterte took office, more than 3,500 people have been killed in what the Philippine National Police (PNP) has said were gunfights with drug suspects who had resisted arrests.
The PNP has said some 2,000 more people were killed in other cases of drug-related violence where it denied involvement. Human rights advocates, however, say the death toll could be far higher than police say.
Reports from ABS-CBN