Duterte slams US in front of ambassador
With the new US Ambassador Sung Kim in the audience, President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday night blasted anew the US decision to withhold aid from the Philippines over human rights concerns.
“If you are dealing with Asians—with due respect to the ambassador of the United States—be careful of your language. You could not do that to the Japanese and to the Koreans … They (would) feel insulted,” he said.
Mr. Duterte repeated his claim that the Philippines could do without the $400-million antipoverty aid from the Millennium Challenge Corp. (MCC).
“To hear them say, ‘We will cut your aid if these things happen again.’ Go on, shut up, shut up. I do not need your assistance. Millennium Challenge, 400 million? China is going to release to me 50 billion. Go home, I do not need your aid,” Mr. Duterte said in a forum with businessmen in Malacañang, as Kim looked on.
He did not say if the 50 billion was in dollars, pesos or yuan, the Chinese currency.
MCC, a US-government aid agency, announced last week that its board had deferred a vote on a renewal of development assistance package for the Philippines, “subject to a further review of concerns around rule of law and civil liberties.”
The Philippines has been slated for another aid package after its previous five-year, $434-million poverty reduction program was completed in May.
Laura Allen, the MCC spokesperson, said on Thursday that it would continue to monitor events in the Philippines. The next board review is in March 2017.
The outgoing Obama administration, along with the leaders of the European Union and the United Nations, has publicly expressed concerns over allegations of extrajudicial killings in Mr. Duterte’s bloody war against illegal drugs.
Threat to repeal VFA
On Saturday, incensed at news of the MCC’s funding withdrawal, Mr. Duterte told the United States to prepare for the repeal or the abrogation of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), which allows US soldiers to hold military exercises in the country.
“When the United States threatens to withhold aid from a country because of a particular reason, it is making that country appear patay gutom (desperate),” Mr. Duterte said on Monday night. “It’s a slur,” he said.
It would be better for America to go straight to the point, tell the countries what it wants, or go to the proper forum, such as the United Nations, to deal with the issue, the President said.
“Why do you have to say, ‘We will cut your aid.’ Just say outright, ‘Please stop or this (will happen).’ We are members of the United Nations, correct? OK. You guys put your complaint there for the violations of the lost souls,” he said.
Human rights violations
The findings of its human rights commission could be presented to the plenary, Mr. Duterte said. It’s all a matter of dignity, he insisted.
“Just because there are human rights violations, you do not say that you will never have the aid. We do not need it,” he added.
As Mr. Duterte aired his grievances, Kim remained impassive. The President and the Korean-born Kim met in Malacañang earlier this month when the new ambassador presented his credentials. Mr. Duterte has described Kim as a “very good ambassador” and “very courteous.”
The US Embassy declined immediate comment, but Sen. Grace Poe said in a TV interview on Tuesday that Mr. Duterte’s blast against the United States in the presence of Kim was “uncalled for.”
“Whatever your personal reasons are, I think you should be a little bit tempered when it comes to your pronouncements because you carry in your shoulders now, not just the weight of your own beliefs but what’s best for the country,” she said.
“Hats off to the ambassador of the US because I guess he really controlled himself,” Poe said. —WITH REPORTS FROM CHRISTINE
O. AVENDAÑO AND JEANNETTE I. ANDRADE/TVJ
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