Philippine president increasingly worries U.S. officials

If Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte
has his way, this week’s joint military exercise between Manila and Washington
will be the last.

“I am serving notice now to the
Americans; this will be the last military exercise,” Duterte said Friday
regarding joint maneuvers scheduled to take place tomorrow. He also pledged to
end joint naval patrols with the U.S Navy.

The Philippine leader’s statements are the
latest in a series of declarations American officials have found troubling.

On Friday Duterte compared himself to
Hitler while explaining how he plans to tackle his nation’s drug problem. “Hitler massacred three
million Jews… there’s three million drug addicts,” he said. “… I’d be happy
to slaughter them.”

He continued, “If
Germany had Hitler, the Philippines would have,” and then pointed toward himself. 

Duterte later said that he did not mean to
offend Jews but that he was willing to kill three million Filipino drug addicts
in his anti-narcotics campaign.

Most historians agree that Hitler killed some
six million Jews in concentrations camps.

Duterte’s escalating anti-American
rhetoric and the human rights abuses committed during his anti-narcotics
campaign are growing cause of concern, State Department spokesperson Nicole
Thompson said in statement. She also said that, “U.S. forces have been
providing support and assistance in the southern Philippines for many years at
the request of several different Filipino administrations. … It has been a
cornerstone of stability for over 70 years.”

Behind closed doors, many U.S. government
officials are concerned about the increasing anti-American rhetoric from the
Philippines. Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) has suggested that new
conditions could be put on U.S aid to the Philippines.

“There is a lot of concern in Congress,
the executive branch in State Department and our representatives in Manila over
the direction that the Philippine President has taken,” said Tim Rieser, a
foreign policy aide to Leahy.

A senior Philippine diplomatic official who
insisted on anonymity admitted to being caught off guard by the plan to cancel future
military drills.

“This move was unprecedented and I am not
aware of this policy being brought up in the department before it was announced,”
he told AMI Newswire.

The official said there has been ongoing debate
within the Philippines around joint exercises with the United States.

official said that Duterte was trying to “stand on his own as an
independent” as he tries to craft his
own policies. The Philippine leader is seeking to open new
relationships with Russia, China and differentiate himself from the
policies of his predecessor, President Benigno Aquino III, who sought
close military ties with the U.S.

Nevertheless, the defense agencies of both
countries have already begun early preparations for the 2017 exercise.
Individuals on both sides are keen to salvage the relationship. “There are many
U.S. military officers who have close counterparts in the Philippine military,”
Rieser said. “Both sides are keen to preserve a strong military-to-military

In July, the United States gave the
Philippine’s a Hamilton-class cutter under the Department of Defense’s Excess
Defense Articles (EDA) program. The former U.S Coast Guard cutter was the third
warship transferred to the Philippines under that program.

Rieser said that escalating rhetoric could
result in a more careful review of such transfers in the future.

“Given President Duterte’s inflammatory
statements and his counter-drug policy, there will be close scrutiny of any
future EDA transfers. This may have less impact on excess equipment for the
Navy than for the police or the army that are involved in the extrajudicial
killings and other abuses that have caused such concern,” he said.

The U.S captured the Philippines from
Spain during the Spanish-American War of 1898. Filipino colonial troops fought
in the U.S Army during World War II. After Philippine independence on July 4th,
1946, the Philippines troops served in the Korean War and the Vietnam War
alongside the United States. The two countries were allies throughout the Gulf
War and during the First Gulf War. The United States, under both President
Obama and President George W. Bush, supported Philippine counter-terror

In a written statement, Pentagon
spokesperson Gary Ross noted that, “We continue to focus on our broad
relationship with the Philippines and will work together in the many areas of
mutual interest, including counterterrorism, to improve the livelihoods of the
Philippine people and uphold our shared democratic values.”


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