While there have been signs of a recent thawing in the diplomatic freeze between the Philippines and the US, after president Rodrigo Duterte - who has repeatedly called president Obama "son of a whore" - congratulated Donald Trump on his election, and moved to bury the hatchet with Washington last week, when he said "I would like to congratulate President Trump. Long live!" adding "now we're here, I don't want to ... fight because Trump is already there", relations appeared to take a turn for the worse again overnight when Duterte told the US on Saturday to prepare for repeal of an agreement on deployment of troops and equipment for exercises, declaring "bye-bye America", and we don't need your money.
Duterte's beef with the US has been largely with the Obama administration, which has criticized the Philippines president over reports of extra-judicial killings in his campaign against drugs. Addressing Washington, Duterte said "we do not need you" after arriving from visits to Cambodia and Singapore. "Prepare to leave the Philippines. Prepare for the eventual repeal or abrogation of the VFA."
"I understand that we have been stricken out of the Millennium Challenge. Well,
good, I welcome it," Duterte speaking with apparent sarcasm. | AP Photo
The Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), signed in 1998, accorded legal status to thousands of U.S. troops who were rotated in the country for military exercises and humanitarian assistance operations.
The irritable leader was visibly upset and vented his anger on Washington because of a decision by the Millennium Challenge Corp (MCC) board to defer vote on the re-selection of Manila for compact development due to human rights issues.
"I understand that we have been stricken out of the Millennium Challenge. Well, good, I welcome it," Duterte said with apparent sarcasm. "We can survive without American money," he said.
"But you know, America, you might also be put to notice. Prepare to leave the Philippines, prepare for the eventual repeal or the abrogation of the Visiting Forces Agreement," he said, referring to a 1998 accord that governs American forces visiting the Philippines for joint combat exercises.
"You know, tit for tat ... if you can do this, so (can) we. It ain't a one-way traffic," Duterte said, adding tauntingly, "Bye-bye America and work on the protocols that will eventually move you out of the Philippines," he said, adding his decision would come "any day soon" after reviewing another military deal, Enhanced Defence Cooperation Agreement.
A U.S. government aid agency, the Millennium Challenge Corporation, said earlier in the week that its board deferred a vote on a renewal of the development assistance package for the Philippines "subject to a further review of concerns around rule of law and civil liberties."
"We do not need the money. China said they will provide so many," he said. "The politics here in Southeast Asia is changing."
While calling Americans "sons of bitches" and "hypocrites," 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 can be a very important ally. "They do not insult people, they do not interfere," he said.
In his news conference, Duterte was pointedly asked how many crime suspects he has killed in the past when he was still a crime-busting city mayor amid his vague and contradicting accounts of his exploits, a topic that has riled up US senators in recent days. 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 burumbumbumbum, they're all dead," Duterte said. Replying to another question, he said that he indeed has 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."
However, the outspoken president suggested relations could improve under a President Donald Trump, saying he would change his mindset if President-elect Donald Trump appeals to him. "I have talked to Trump, he was very nice, very courteous," he said. "I could not sense any hostile drift, or even the manner he was saying it, so, in deference, I'll just wait."
"We talk in the same language," Duterte said. He recalled that when he told Trump in a recent phone call that "I like your mouth, it's like mine," he said Trump responded by saying, "Yes, Mr. President, we're similar."
"I will let Obama fade away and if he disappears, then I will begin to reassess," Duterte said, adding that he and Trump acknowledged each other's similarly brash manners.