Duterte to US over aid is­sue: Bye-bye Amer­ica Duterte un­leashes ex­ple­tives-laden tirade

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

MANILA: Pres­i­dent Ro­drigo Duterte threat­ened yes­ter­day to ter­mi­nate a pact that al­lows US troops to visit the Philip­pines, say­ing “bye-bye Amer­ica” as he re­acted with rage to what he thought was a US de­ci­sion to scrap a ma­jor aid pack­age over hu­man rights con­cerns. A US govern­ment aid agency, the Mil­len­nium Chal­lenge Cor­po­ra­tion, said ear­lier in the week that its board de­ferred a vote on a re­newal of the de­vel­op­ment as­sis­tance pack­age for the Philip­pines “sub­ject to a fur­ther re­view of con­cerns around rule of law and civil lib­er­ties.”

The agency has clearly not voted to scrap or ap­prove the aid pack­age, but Duterte un­leashed an ex­ple­tives-laden tirade upon his ar­rival in his south­ern home­town of Davao af­ter back-to-back vis­its to Cam­bo­dia and Sin­ga­pore. “I un­der­stand that we have been stricken out of the Mil­len­nium Chal­lenge. Well, good, I wel­come it,” Duterte said with ap­par­ent sar­casm.

Tit for tat

“We can sur­vive with­out Amer­i­can money,” he said. “But you know, Amer­ica, you might also be put to no­tice. Pre­pare to leave the Philip­pines, pre­pare for the even­tual re­peal or the ab­ro­ga­tion of the Vis­it­ing Forces Agree­ment,” he said, re­fer­ring to a 1998 ac­cord that gov­erns Amer­i­can forces vis­it­ing the Philip­pines for joint com­bat ex­er­cises. “You know, tit for tat ... if you can do this, so (can) we. It ain’t a one-way traf­fic,” Duterte said, adding taunt­ingly, “Bye­bye Amer­ica.”

The 71-year-old Duterte, who de­scribes him­self as a left-wing politi­cian, has made sim­i­lar threats be­fore and af­ter tak­ing of­fice in June, but he and his of­fi­cials have walked back on many of his pub­lic state­ments, caus­ing con­fu­sion. While call­ing Amer­i­cans “sons of bitches” and “hyp­ocrites,” Duterte praised China as hav­ing “the kind­est soul of all” for of­fer­ing what he said was sig­nif­i­cant fi­nan­cial as­sis­tance. “So, what do I need Amer­ica for?” he asked.

He also said Rus­sia can be a very im­por­tant ally. “They do not in­sult peo­ple, they do not in­ter­fere,” he said. Philip­pine For­eign Sec­re­tary Per­fecto Yasay Jr. also crit­i­cized the US aid de­ci­sion, say­ing it hap­pened af­ter Duterte de­clared he would chart a for­eign pol­icy course in­de­pen­dent of Wash­ing­ton. The Philip­pines had been slated for another aid pack­age af­ter its pre­vi­ous five-year, $434 mil­lion poverty re­duc­tion pro­gram was suc­cess­fully com­pleted in May un­der Duterte’s pre­de­ces­sor, Benigno Aquino III.

The agency’s spokes­woman, Laura Allen, said Thurs­day that it would con­tinue to mon­i­tor events in the Philip­pines be­fore the next board re­view in March 2017. The US de­ci­sion is among the first signs of how con­cerns about the rule of law and hu­man rights un­der Duterte could en­tail eco­nomic costs. The US govern­ment, along with Euro­pean Union and UN of­fi­cials, has raised con­cerns about Duterte’s crack­down on il­le­gal drugs, which has left more than 2,000 sus­pected drug users and deal­ers dead in pur­ported gun­bat­tles with po­lice. More than 3,000 other deaths are be­ing in­ves­ti­gated to de­ter­mine if they were linked to il­le­gal drugs.

Bu­rum­bum­bum­bum

In his news con­fer­ence, Duterte was point­edly asked how many crime sus­pects he has killed in the past when he was still a crime-bust­ing city mayor amid his vague and con­tra­dict­ing ac­counts of his ex­ploits. The former govern­ment pros­e­cu­tor again gave con­trast­ing replies. “Maybe one, two three ... I’m say­ing, maybe my bul­lets hit them, maybe not, but af­ter the bu­rum­bum­bum­bum, they’re all dead,” Duterte said.

Re­ply­ing to another ques­tion, he said that he in­deed has killed, but did not pro­vide de­tails and tried to jus­tify his act. “When I tell you now that I killed, do not term them as sus­pects be­cause all of them died while they were fight­ing govern­ment peo­ple.” He asked God for for­give­ness in ad­vance, say­ing he may not have time to pray if he’s as­sas­si­nated. “God, for­give me for killing these id­iots,” Duterte said, then blamed God for the pres­ence of crim­i­nals. “You cre­ate a hu­man mon­ster so if you are God, why do you have to cre­ate these id­iots? That’s why they die.”

Duterte, who has had a dif­fi­cult re­la­tion­ship with Pres­i­dent Barack Obama, said he would change his mind­set if Pres­i­den­t­elect Don­ald Trump ap­peals to him. “I have talked to Trump, he was very nice, very cour­te­ous,” he said. “I could not sense any hos­tile drift, or even the man­ner he was say­ing it, so, in def­er­ence, I’ll just wait.”

“I will let Obama fade away and if he dis­ap­pears, then I will be­gin to re­assess,” Duterte said, adding that he and Trump ac­knowl­edged each other’s sim­i­larly brash man­ners. “We talk in the same lan­guage,” Duterte said. He re­called that when he told Trump in a re­cent phone call that “I like your mouth, it’s like mine,” he said Trump re­sponded by say­ing, “Yes, Mr Pres­i­dent, we’re sim­i­lar.” “And you know, peo­ple with the same feather flock to­gether,” Duterte said.

SIN­GA­PORE: Philip­pine Pres­i­dent Ro­drigo Duterte waves to the Filipino com­mu­nity in Sin­ga­pore as he leaves the stage. — AP

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