The Mercury News
Duterte threatens to ‘break up with America’
Philippine president rejects U.S. criticism of rights abuses
MANILA, Philippines — Philippine leader Rodrigo Duterte told President Barack Obama “you can go to hell” in a speech Tuesday that was his strongest tirade so far against the U.S. over its criticism of his deadly anti-drug campaign, adding that he may eventually decide to “break up with America.”
He also lashed out anew at the European Union, saying the bloc, which has also criticized his brutal crackdown, “better choose purgatory, hell is filled up.”
Since becoming president in June, Duterte has had an uneasy relationship with the U.S. and with Obama and has declared intentions to bolster relations with China and Russia as he revamps Philippine foreign policy that has long leaned on Washington.
The brash-speaking leader also has been hypersensitive to criticism over his anti-drug crackdown, which has left more than an estimated 3,000 suspected drug dealers and pushers dead in just three months, alarming the United Nations, the EU, the U.S. and human rights watchdogs.
In a speech before a local convention attended by officials and business executives, Duterte outlined his disappointments with the U.S., which has asked his government to stop the widespread killings and has questioned whether human rights are being violated. He also described Washington as an unreliable ally, saying Filipino forces have not benefited from joint combat exercises with U.S. troops.
“Instead of helping us, the first to criticize is this State Department, so you can go to hell, Mr. Obama, you can go to hell,” Duterte said. Then addressing the EU, he said: “Better choose purgatory, hell is filled up.”
In a later speech at a synagogue in Makati city in the Manila metropolis, Duterte warned he may decide to “break up with America” in his most serious threat so far to push relations back with Washington.
“Eventually I might, in my time, I will break up with America,” he said without elaborating. “I would rather go to Russia and to China.”
Duterte personally apologized to the Jewish community for making a “terribly wrong” comparison between his anti-drug campaign and Hitler and the Holocaust in a recent speech.