Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte says Russian and Chinese diplomats have been very receptive of his many complaints about the United States, and he will continue to develop relations with the two rogue leftist states so long as they approve of his “bloody” war on drugs.
“Shift your alliance to us. You won’t gain anything from them,” Duterte quoted an unnamed Chinese official as telling him on Sunday, the “them” in the sentence being the U.S. government. “I’m going to China to make friends with them and also with Russia,” he noted, reiterating his position that the Philippines should develop more reliance of the two Asian countries.
In addition to the mystery Chinese official, the president of the Philippines said that he had met with Dmitry Medvedev, the Russian Prime Minister, who listened to him complain about Washington and shared his frustration. “I told him that the situation was like this. They are making it hard for me and they are shamelessly bastardizing me,” Duterte said. “He said ‘America is like that.’ We will help you.”
“Tomorrow, [Russian president Vladimir] Putin and [Chinese president] Xi Jinping will be my close friends,” he concluded.
It is not clear whether Russia and China had hoped that their olive branch towards Duterte, who has become a lightning rod for human rights groups due to his promotion of vigilante justice and police brutality. Duterte has promised bounties for both police and civilians who kill drug suspects.
An estimated 3,000 people have been killed since he took office on June 30 in drug-related police activity, and over 60,000 drug addicts surrendered to police, seeking rehabilitation. The Chinese and Russian governments have been largely silent on the issue and on further diplomacy with Duterte, with the president himself being the main source of most of the known diplomatic intrigue between the Philippines and its regional neighbors.
In addition to boasting of his friends in China and Russia, Duterte announced earlier this week that he would cease cooperating with the United States on joint military exercises. “You [the United States] are scheduled to hold war games again which China does not want. I will serve notice to you now, this will be the last military exercise,” he said last week.
The South China Morning Post notes that the status of this policy is in limbo, as Duterte’s Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay has denied that Duterte ever said this. “No, no, no, he did not say that at all,” Yasay insisted to reporters following Duterte’s comments.
Duterte’s controversial remarks follow a weekend in which Duterte finally apologized for making an off-color comment. While Duterte has not apologized for calling President Obama a “son of a whore” or a joke in which he lamented not being able to have sex with a gang rape victim, he did apologize this weekend to the global Jewish community for remarks in which he said he would “happily slaughter” three million people and compared himself to Adolf Hitler.
The relationship between Manila and Beijing has been tense for years, as the Chinese government has usurped sovereign Philippine territory in the South China Sea and built military and surveillance facilities in the region.
The previous administration of President Benigno Aquino took China to the Permanent Court of Arbitration at the Hague and won his case, a case Beijing has vowed to completely ignore. As Duterte had assumed the presidency when the verdict came out, China did not condemn the Philippines for winning the case, instead claiming that “eunuchs” from Japan and the United States had manipulated the verdict.
American diplomats have taken Duterte’s temperament in stride. Following remarks in which Duterte said he would “cross the Rubicon between me and the United States” without elaborating, State Department spokesman Mark Toner said: “They’re a sovereign nation and we’re certainly not going to hold them back from pursuing closer relations with either of those countries [China and Russia]… It’s not a zero-sum game.”
“We will continue to honor our alliance commitments, and we expect the Philippines to do the same,” Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook said shortly after the first time Duterte threatened to end joint military exercises with America, after calling President Obama a “son of a whore.”