Duterte orders US advisors out
PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte ratcheted up his feud with the United States, ordering all American special forces out of the southern Philippines where they have been advising local troops battling Muslim extremists.
Mr Duterte’s order came a week after he called US President Barack Obama “a son of a whore”, causing Mr Obama to cancel their bilateral meeting at a summit in Laos.
The Filipino leader, the first to hail from the south and who claims Muslim ancestry, has been stepping up efforts to bring peace to the southern Philippines, where decades-long insurgencies with Muslim and communist rebels have claimed more than 150,000 lives.
Last month he restarted peace talks with the largest separatist group, the 12,000-strong Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), which like others has been fighting since the 1970s for an independent Islamic state or autonomous rule.
US advisors in the area help train Filipino troops but are barred from engaging in combat except in selfdefence.
Previously, about 500 to 600 US personnel rotated through the Mindanao region but in 2014, then-defence secretary Voltaire Gazmin said this would be cut back to 200.
Mr Duterte did not specify when or how many Americans would be expelled but said the Philippines alignment with the West was at the root of the Muslim insurgency.
“These US special forces, they have to go in Mindanao,” he told a gathering of government employees.
“The [Muslim] people will become more agitated. If they see an American, they will really kill him.”
Meanwhile, in Jakarta, Indonesian President Joko Widodo said Mr Duterte gave him the go-ahead to execute a Filipina maid on death row whose plight has garnered huge international support.
The maid, Mary Jane Veloso, was arrested in Indonesia in 2009 carrying a suitcase lined with 2.6 kilograms (5.7 pounds) of heroin and was sentenced to death.
“I explained about the delay over the execution,” Mr Widodo said. “President Duterte then said please, go ahead if you want to execute.”
The Philippines however denied the claim, saying Mr Duterte had simply pledged to respect the outcome of Indonesia’s judicial process.