Duterte tells Obama to go to hell, woos rivals
FIREBRAND Philippine leader Rodrigo Duterte told US President Barack Obama to “go to hell”, as he threatened to end his nation’s decades-old alliance with the United States in favour of China and Russia.
The fresh tirade came as the Philippines and the United States launched annual war games that Mr Duterte had already warned may be the last of his presidency, in response to US criticism of his deadly war on crime.
“I have lost my respect for America,” Mr Duterte said as he complained at length in two speeches about calls by the United States, the United Nations and the European Union to respect human rights. “Mr Obama, you can go to hell.” Mr Duterte branded Americans “hypocrites” and warned there may come a time when he would completely break the two nations’ alliance, which includes a mutual defence pact.
“Eventually I might, in my term, break up with America. I would rather go to Russia or to China. Even if we do not agree with their ideology, they have respect for the people. Respect is important,” he said.
Mr Duterte, who took office on June 30, has said the top priority of his six-year term is eradicating illegal drugs in society, and he is “happy to slaughter” 3 million addicts to achieve his goal.
More than 3000 people have died in the crime war so far with rights groups warning of vigilante death squads carrying out mass murder and a general breakdown in the rule of law.
Mr Obama last month urged Mr Duterte at a regional summit in Laos to respect the rule of law and carry out his drug war “the right way”.
A few days earlier, Mr Duterte had branded Mr Obama a “son of a whore” after being told the US president would raise the rights concerns at the summit.
Military ties between the Philippines and the United States had grown stronger in recent years partly in response to China’s expanding presence in the strategically vital South China Sea.
On October 4, Mr Duterte told Filipinos they could not count on the United States, the Philippines’ former colonial ruler.
“Don’t believe in those Americans. They will not fight to die for us,” he told military officers.
About 2000 American and Filipino troops are taking part in the eight-day war games, which will be held partly in waters near the disputed areas of the South China Sea.
In speeches to launch the exercises in Manila, military chiefs from both sides ignored Mr Duterte’s threats, acting as if relations were normal.
However, a statement released by the US embassy in Manila hinted at the tensions.
“We are concerned of course, but we will continue to honour our alliance commitments and we expect the Philippines to do the same,” embassy spokesperson Molly Koscina said.
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte (centre) salutes with a raised fist together with military officers during a “talk to the troops” visit in Manila on October 4.