US officials remain confident in Filipino alliance despite ugly rhetoric

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte gave a series of speeches in Manila Tuesday in which he was critical of President Obama and the U.S. for refusing to sell weapons to the southeast Asian country, ostensibly as the result of recent human rights violations there.

According to AP, over 3,000 people in the Philippines involved with the illegal drug trade have been killed extrajudicially by or with the support of Duterte’s government since taking office in June.

“Although it may sound s— to you, it is my sacred duty to keep the integrity of this republic and the people healthy,” said Duterte. “If you [the U.S.] don’t want to sell arms, I’ll go to Russia. I sent the generals to Russia and Russia said ‘do not worry, we have everything you need, we’ll give it to you’.

“And as for China, they said ‘just come over and sign and everything will be delivered.'”

Later in the speech, Duterte told Obama to “go to hell”, and said the “EU better choose purgatory. Hell is already full,” retaliating against officials with the European organization who have similarly been critical of the Filipino drug war.

“This is what happens now,” he continued. “I will be reconfiguring my foreign policy. Eventually, I might, in my time, I will break up with America.”

In Washington on Tuesday, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest responded to the Duterte’s inflammatory comments, saying that no official communications have been received from the Philippines regarding their alliance with the U.S.

“The administration and the United States of America will not hesitate to raise our concerns about extrajudicial killings,” he said. “We remain deeply concerned by reports of widespread extrajudicial killings by or at the behest of government authorities in the Philippines.”

Last week, Duterte also stated that joint military exercises with the U.S., which began Tuesday, would be the last such cooperative effort between the two countries, at least until his term in office ends in 2022.

However, American diplomats have said no formal declaration has been delivered by the Filipino government communicating a termination.

Despite a steady flow of passive-aggressive rhetoric coming from Manila in recent months, U.S. Marine Brig. Gen. John Jansen remains optimistic about U.S. relations there.

“Our alliance remains a key source of stability in the Asia-Pacific region,” he said. “We will continue to build our partnership and capabilities together.”


[Reuters] [AP] [Photo courtesy State Department/Flickr via VOA News]