‘Go ahead, withdraw your assistance’: Philippines' Duterte dares US, EU

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte © Romeo Ranoco
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte declares he will not bow to foreign pressure over his anti-drug campaign, while Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay declared that the US “has failed us.”

“I do not expect the human rights [groups], I do not expect Obama, I do not expect the EU to understand me,” said Duterte in a speech on Thursday. “Do not understand me. And if you think it’s high time for you guys to withdraw your assistance, go ahead. We will not beg for it.”

Duterte’s remark was made in response to mounting US and EU criticism of his war on drugs, which has led to over 3,600 deaths at the hands of police, drug gangs, and vigilantes, according to the latest figures from the Philippine National Police (PNP). Certain politicians, such as US Senator Patrick Leahy, suggested cutting off aid to the Philippines in September, but Duterte maintains that foreigners simply do not understand the scale of the drug problem in his country.

“You will never understand the pain that we are suffering,” he said. “Go away, bring your money somewhere else. We will survive as a nation. There will always be a day for reckoning.”

These latest comments fit in with the rhetoric Duterte has become famous for since taking office. On Tuesday, he told Barack Obama, whom he has previously called a “son-of-a-b***h,” to “go to hell,” and the Philippines’ president called for a withdrawal of US troops in September.

Meanwhile, Duterte’s foreign secretary, Perfecto Yasay, who has at times tried to downplay his boss’s comments, released a statement on Facebook titled “America has failed us” in which he says that, while there are many “countless things that we will be forever grateful to America for,” the US has never fully respected Philippine independence.

“After proclaiming in July 4, 1946 that the Filipinos had been adequately trained for self-determination and governance, the United States held on to invisible chains that reined us in towards dependency and submission as little brown brothers not capable of true independence and freedom,” the FM said in the statement.

The United States “give us the assurance” that it will come to the Philippines’ defense if its sovereignty is threatened, and that is why Duterte has set about “realigning our independent foreign policy,” the statement added.

However, this does not necessarily mean that Duterte wants to sever ties with the US, as Yasay also said that the Philippines will not pursue a military alliance with any country other than the United States.

“The President in many occasions has said categorically that he will only have one military alliance, and our only ally in that respect is the US,” he said before a Senate committee on Thursday.

There seems to be some differences of opinion within the Duterte administration about how to interpret the president’s remarks. Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana earlier said that he thought Duterte had been “misinformed” about the nature of the US-Philippines alliance, while spokesman Ernesto Abella said that many of the president’s statements are “expressions of frustration” that should not be taken literally, the Philippine Star reported on Thursday.

American officials, for their part, have tried to shrug off Duterte’s outbursts. A State Department official told the LA Times, “we are not going to respond to every little thing said in Tagalog somewhere in the Philippines.”

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