Philippines: Duterte dares US, EU to withdraw aid

Tough-talking leader says the country won’t beg for foreign assistance after criticism over his deadly drug campaign.

President Rodrigo Duterte has told the United States and the European Union to “go ahead” and withdraw financial aid to the Philippines if they’re unhappy with his bloody anti-drug war. 

“Go away, bring your money to somewhere else. We will survive as a nation,” Duterte said in a speech to police officers on Thursday in the southern city of Butuan.

“How do you look at us, mendicants? We will survive. Even if we’ll go through hardships, we will survive. But we will never, never compromise our dignity.

“If you think it is high time for you guys to withdraw your assistance, go ahead, we will not beg for it,” Duterte said, adding he doesn’t expect the US, EU, and human rights group to understand his policy. 

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More than 3,680 people have been killed by police and unidentified attackers in the Philippines since June 30, when Duterte took office.

Last week, two US senators raised alarms about the mounting death toll linked to the anti-drug war, and called for a review of American foreign aid to the Philippines. 

Senator Ben Cardin said what Duterte is advocating and endorsing “amounts to mass murder”

Senator Patrick Leahy said: “No amount of killing will result in reforms that improve the judiciary, end corruption and impunity in law enforcement, or rehabilitate those caught in the vicious cycle of addiction.”

According to US data, the Philippines is expected to receive a total of $188m in 2017. In 2015, the country received $236m in US aid. 

Meanwhile, the annual EU assistance to the Philippines is estimated at $65m.

Philippine police stand on guard during a raid in a slum area in Metro Manila [Reuters]
Philippine police stand on guard during a raid in a slum area in Metro Manila [Reuters]

In an interview with Al Jazeera, Phelim Kine of Human Rights Watch warned that foreign aid to the Philippines could go into funding “mass unlawful violence” by authorities. 

But in defending his police on Thursday, Duterte said foreign governments “will never understand the pain that we are suffering.

“We have a problem here trying to preserve our society,” the president, nicknamed “The Punisher”, said.

‘America has failed us’

Duterte’s statements follow a Facebook post by his foreign minister, Perfecto Yasay, who wrote that the president wants to liberate the Philippines from a “shackling dependency” on the US.

In the post titled AMERICA HAS FAILED US, Yasay said Duterte was “compelled to realign” Philippine foreign policy and not submit to US demands and interests.

“Breaking away from the shackling dependency of the Philippines to effectively address both internal and external security threats has become imperative in putting an end to our nation’s subservience to United States interests,” Yasay wrote.

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He said in the South China Sea, the US could not guarantee it would help the Philippines to protect its sovereignty, as it is bound to by a 1951 bilateral treaty.

“Worse is that our only ally could not give us the assurance that in taking a hard line towards the enforcement of our sovereignty rights under international law, it will promptly come to our defence under our existing military treaty and agreements.”

On Monday, Duterte said US President Barack Obama should “go to hell” and hinted he might “break up” with the United States.

Molly Koscina, a spokeswoman for the US embassy, said Yasay’s comments ran counter to close relations between the two countries.

“We have seen the post. We’ve already spoken to this sort of rhetoric,” Koscina told reporters. “Frankly, it seems at odds with the warm relationship that exists between the Filipino and American people.”

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies