WE welcome the statement from the United States State Department that America’s ties with the Philippines remain strong and vital despite occasional unfavorable remarks from President Duterte. “Our people-to-people ties remain strong. Our security and military ties remain strong. Our economic ties remain strong,” said State Department deputy spokesman Mark Toner.
The new statement from the State Department came after President Duterte had again expressed exasperation over international criticism of his anti-drugs campaign with 3,000 people already killed. It was in this speech in Hanoi where he said he would be “happy to slaughter” three million drug addicts in the Philippines “to save the next generation from perdition.”
What drew new world attention to the President’s statement was his reference to Nazi Germany’s Hitler, who massacred six million Jews in World War II concentration camps. Duterte appeared to be lauding Hitler’s example, but presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said the President actually did not want to be branded another Hitler but was willing to kill three million people in his war on drugs.
This is not the first time remarks by the President have drawn public attention. He had earlier said the coming joint PH-US military exercises would be the last. But Secretary of Foreign Affairs Perfecto Yasay Jr. said the next day, the President meant the last this year.
The US State Department has wisely taken the position that, notwithstanding any negative remarks from President Duterte – which are likely to be clarified later – it will await and act only on official statements from the Philippine government, as issued by the DFA.
Commenting on the Hitler remarks, United Nations special adviser on the prevention of genocide Adama Dieng called on President Duterte to “exercise restraint in the use of language that could exacerbate discrimination, hostility, and violence.” It would also help if similar restraint was exercised in the reporting of the President’s remarks – and in comments on them – with due concern for the possibility that he may be misunderstood.
The US State Department has adopted what may well be the proper stand. It will await official statements from the Philippine government. In the meantime, Philippine-American relations remain as they have been all these years – very close on the people side, on military and security coordination, and on economic relations.