US says it will work with Duterte af­ter lat­est out­burst

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

The United States said yes­ter­day it will work with the Philip­pine pres­i­dent to ad­dress any con­cerns af­ter he threat­ened to ter­mi­nate a pact that al­lows US troops to visit the Philip­pines.

Pres­i­dent Ro­drigo Duterte was en­raged af­ter a US gov­ern­ment aid agency de­ferred a vote on a re­newal of a ma­jor de­vel­op­ment as­sis­tance pack­age for the Philip­pines over con­cerns about ex­tra­ju­di­cial killings in Duterte’s war on il­le­gal drugs, which has left thou­sands dead.

Al­though no de­ci­sion on the aid pack­age has been taken, Duterte on Satur­day launched an ex­ple­tives-laden tirade, telling the US to “pre­pare to leave the Philip­pines, pre­pare for the even­tual re­peal or the ab­ro­ga­tion of the Vis­it­ing Forces Agree­ment.”

He was re­fer­ring to a 1998 ac­cord that gov­erns Amer­i­can forces vis­it­ing the Philip­pines for joint com­bat ex­er­cises. The pact has helped the Philip­pines con­tain a vi­o­lent Mus­lim in­sur­gency in the south and train and equip Filipino forces fac­ing an as­sertive China in dis­puted South China Sea wa­ters. “You know, tit for tat ... if you can do this, so (can) we. It ain’t a one-way traf­fic,” Duterte said, adding taunt­ingly, “Bye-bye Amer­ica.”

The US Em­bassy in Manila said in a state­ment overnight that Wash­ing­ton will work closely with the Duterte ad­min­is­tra­tion to ad­dress any con­cerns it may have. It did not elab­o­rate.

The White House didn’t im­me­di­ately re­spond to a re­quest for com­ment, but spokesman Josh Earnest has said pre­vi­ously that the White House would not re­act pub­licly each time Duterte made an off­hand re­mark.

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 on Satur­day 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. 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. A spokes­woman for the Mil­len­nium Chal­lenge Cor­po­ra­tion, 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 U.N. 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.

In a news con­fer­ence in his south­ern home­town of Davao, 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.”

—AP

SIN­GA­PORE: Philip­pine Pres­i­dent Ro­drigo Duterte speaks to the Filipino com­mu­nity on Fri­day.

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