US says it will work with Duterte to address any concerns after he threatened to terminate a pact that allowed US troops to visit the Philippines.
The United States said on Sunday that it would work with President Rodrigo Duterte to address any concerns after he threatened to terminate a pact that allowed US troops to visit the Philippines.
Mr. 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 his war on illegal drugs, which has left thousands dead.
Although no decision on the aid package has been taken, Mr. Duterte on Saturday launched an expletive-laden tirade, telling the United States 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 Moro insurgency in Mindanao 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,” Mr. Duterte said, adding tauntingly, “Bye-bye America.” The US Embassy in Manila said in a statement overnight that Washington would work closely with the Duterte administration to address any concerns it might have. It did not elaborate.
The White House didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment, but spokesperson Josh Earnest said previously that the White House would not react publicly each time Mr. Duterte made an offhand remark.
The 71-year-old President, 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.
“Start packing your things and get out of my country,” Mr. Duterte said in a speech at the birthday party of Sen. Manny Pacquiao. “You want to come back here? You pay us. You want bases here? Pay us.”
All about money
Mr. Duterte said that the relationship between the Philippines and the United States should just be transactional. “Pera-pera na lang tayo, buti pa (Let it be all about money between us),” he said. The Philippines is not at war, he said, so there is no reason to allow American troops in the country.
He shrugged off the US training of Filipinos on various exercises. “We are more durable, more brave. I tell you, do not teach us about warfare, we have the longest insurgency problem here,” he said. While calling Americans “sons of bitches” and “hypocrites,” Mr. Duterte 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 could 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 Mr. Duterte’s predecessor, Benigno Aquino III. A spokesperson for Millennium Challenge Corp., Laura Allen, said on Thursday 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 Mr. Duterte could entail economic costs. The US government, along with European Union and UN officials, has raised concerns about Mr. Duterte’s crackdown on illegal drugs, which has left more than 2,000 suspected drug users and dealers dead in purported gun battles with police. More than 3,000 other deaths are being investigated to determine if they were linked to illegal drugs.
At a news conference in his Davao hometown, Mr. Duterte was pointedly asked how many crime suspects he had 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 burum-bum-bum-bum, they’re all dead,” Mr. Duterte said. Replying to another question, he said that he indeed had 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.”