'Secret spy' makes inappropriate public gesture
THE head of Australia's overseas spy agency has been slammed over a "sickening” photo where he stands with "The Punisher”, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, and mimics his signature gesture.
Australian Secret Intelligence Service director-general Nick Warner was photographed giving the controversial fist pump with the firebrand leader on Tuesday as they held talks in Manila.
Australia director of Human Rights Watch in Australia Elaine Pearson told news.com.au Mr Warner's gesture effectively cheered on Mr Duterte's abusive policies.
"It's sickening to see the head of Australia's spy agency fist-pumping a leader who has instigated the killing of thousands of people in the so-called war on drugs,” Ms Pearson said.
"A photo like this adds insult to injury to Filipino victims and the families of those killed in cold blood.”
Ms Pearson said Australian officials often had to meet "unsavoury leaders” but warned this move could come back to bite Mr Warner.
She also called on him to make a public statement about Australia's concerns over the extrajudicial killings that have rocked the Philippines in the past year.
"One day, Duterte may eventually be indicted for crimes against humanity,” Ms Pearson said.
"And this photo will come back and haunt Warner, if he doesn't clarify it.
"The clenched fist is a symbol of defiance for Duterte - representing his iron fist approach to crime. It's entirely inappropriate for an Australian official to be photographed in this way.”
Labor MP and chairman of the Statutory Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security, Anthony Byrne called Mr Warner's actions inappropriate and a serious misjudgment.
Philippine police have reported killing 3500 people in anti-drug operations since Mr Duterte came to power in June last year.
Rights groups say close to 9000 have been killed, including murders by vigilantes. - Debra Killalea