Philippine president increasingly worries U.S. officials
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.
The 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 relationship.”
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 efforts.
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.”