Friday, November 18th, 2016
Image credits – Wikimedia
In line with his recent rants against the US, Philippines’ President Rodrigo Duterte recently threatened to cut ties with the country. According to reports, Duterte even stated that President Obama could “go to hell”.
The remarks by Duterte happen to come at a time when the Philippines and the US just began their joint military exercises. However, considering Duterte’s current sentiments, this could be the last one.
The military exercises were started at Manila sometime in the first week of October 2016 and were expected to get over by the second week. But, Duterte has stated that this would be the last of such exercises and that he would serve the US with a notice ensuring the same.
Criticism against Duterte
Duterte’s statements were made in response to the US’s criticism over his aggressive and violent approach towards dealing with the drug problem in Philippines. Under Duterte’s rule, thousands of drug dealers and users were reported to have been killed. Many of the so called users and dealers were only suspects.
Some of the killings occurred as part of shootouts with local law enforcement agencies. It is believed that the Police were forced to take action, as the suspects tried to resist arrest. Other suspects were said to have been murdered by vigilantes, who some say, are supported by Duterte. The ones murdered by vigilantes have their bodies placed on streets for everyone to see. These bodies are often accompanied by cardboard signs mentioning the drug related crimes committed by them.
American officials have strongly criticized Duterte over these matters, especially, after he likened himself to German dictator, Adolf Hitler.
It was in response to this criticism that Duterte made his statements over severing ties with the US. He also added that he would favor China and Russia over the US. In his speech, President Duterte mentioned that respect was important to him. He said that if the US continued its criticism over his methods, he would eventually “break up” with the country and also, reconfigure his foreign policy. Duterte also said that he would develop new ties with Russia and China.
Apart from asking Obama to “got to hell”, the Philippine President even told the EU to choose purgatory.
Duterte Takes Steps
Duterte is also believed to have instructed the defense chief to avoid preparing for future joint military exercises with the US. Joint military exercises serve as the most significant symbol of Philippines’ alliance with USA.
However, Duterte has made it clear that he will not do away with the Mutual Defense Treaty with Washington, which was signed in 1951. But, he will ensure that a new foreign policy is formulated; one that is not dependent on Washington.
In his statement Duterte mentioned the need for realignment.
Furthermore, the controversial leader has called for the exit of US forces from the South and the ending of joint patrols with the US Navy in the South China Sea, which is a disputed location.
In the meantime, plans were made for Duterte’s China visit in the following weeks. Duterte intentions for the visit involved building a better relationship with China, despite both countries having their fair share of disputes. The visit, scheduled from October 18 to October 21, 2016, was said to have included discussions with Premier Li Keqiang and President Xi Jinping.
The topics of discussion, according to the Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson, Geng Shuang, were believed to revolve around strengthening cooperation and improving bilateral relations. In his statement, Geng Shuang also spoke of how China intends to build political trust using Duterte’s visit.
The Chinese government believed that the visit would pave the way for dialogue and encourage a bilateral strategic cooperative relationship between the two nations. Gen Shuang even went on to state that China and the Philippines were traditionally amicable neighbors.
Duterte, who identifies as a socialist, has chosen to side with China due to the criticisms he has faced from the US and President Barack Obama.
Strangely enough, the criticism against Duterte has only helped his popularity rise. In a recent survey, 76% of the Filipino population has stated satisfaction over Duterte’s rule, while only 11% reported dissatisfaction. The remaining numbers were left undecided.
Senator Dick Gordon Disagrees with Duterte
Not everyone agreed with Duterte’s sentiments; one of them being Filipino Senator, Richard (Dick) Gordon. Gordon stated that it would be a wrong move for the Philippines to sever relations with the US, especially over the assumption that a relationship with China would be better.
Gordon stated that he did not agree with Duterte on this matter. He also explained that it wasn’t a good idea to end a relationship with a reliable ally for shortsighted reasons.
Gordon represents the Senate’s majority block and supports the idea of Philippines formulating an independent foreign policy that is not answerable to anybody.
Also, when asked if Duterte could be impeached, Gordon stated that he most likely wouldn’t. The reasons he gave in support of this was that impeachment was a difficult process and that, more importantly, Duterte had not taken any real action yet.
However, Gordon did agree with Duterte upon the issue of the US not treating the Philippines with respect. In a discussion with a congressional staff from the US, Gordon is believed to have expressed his opinion over US’s lack of respect towards the Philippines.