Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte has threatened to terminate a pact that allows US troops to visit the Philippines, saying "bye-bye America" as he reacted with rage to what he thought was a US decision to scrap a major aid package over human rights concerns.
A US government aid agency, the Millennium Challenge Corporation, said earlier this week that its board had put back a vote on renewing the development assistance package for the Philippines "subject to a further review of concerns around rule of law and civil liberties."
Though the vote has not taken place, Mr Duterte unleashed an expletive-laden tirade upon his arrival in his southern hometown of Davao after back-to-back visits to Cambodia and Singapore.
It came after the outspoken leader told the BBC that he had personally killed three men while mayor of Davao. As president Mr Duterte has instituted and overseen a bloody anti-drugs programme predicated on the extra-judicial killing of addicts and dealers, leaving some 4,500 Filipinos dead over five months.
On the aid package, he said: "We can survive without American money. But you know, America, you might also be put to notice. Prepare to leave the Philippines, prepare for the eventual repeal or the abrogation of the Visiting Forces Agreement."
The 1998 accord governs American forces visiting the Philippines for joint combat exercises.
Mr Duterte added: "You know, tit for tat. If you can do this, so (can) we. It ain't a one-way traffic. Bye-bye America." The 71-year-old describes himself as a left-wing politician and made similar threats before and after taking office in June. But he and his officials have walked back on many of his public statements, causing confusion.
While calling Americans "sons of bitches" and "hypocrites", Mr Duterte praised China as having "the kindest soul of all" for offering what he said was significant financial assistance. "So, what do I need America for?" he asked. However, Reuters has reported that China is the biggest source of methamphetamine smuggled into the Philippines.
Mr Duterte also said Russia could be an important ally. "They do not insult people, they do not interfere," he said. The agency's spokeswoman, Laura Allen, said it would continue to monitor events in the Philippines before the next board review in March 2017. The decision is among the first signs of how concerns about the rule of law and human rights under Mr Duterte could entail economic costs.
The US government, along with European Union and UN officials, has raised concerns about Mr Duterte's crackdown on illegal drugs. In his news conference, Mr Duterte was pointedly asked how many crime suspects he has killed in the past when he was still a crime-busting city mayor amid his vague and contradicting accounts of his exploits. The former government prosecutor again gave contrasting replies.
"Maybe one, two, three. I'm saying, maybe my bullets hit them, maybe not, but after the burumbumbumbum, they're all dead," Mr Duterte said. Replying to another question, he said that he indeed has killed, but did not provide details and tried to justify his actions. "When I tell you now that I killed, do not term them as suspects because all of them died while they were fighting government people."
He asked God for forgiveness in advance, saying he may not have time to pray if he's assassinated. "God, forgive me for killing these idiots," Mr Duterte said, then blamed God for the presence of criminals. You create a human monster so if you are God, why do you have to create these idiots? That's why they die." He told the BBC: "I killed about three of them ... I don't know how many bullets from my gun went inside their bodies. It happened and I cannot lie about it."
Mr Duterte, who has had a difficult relationship with President Barack Obama, said he would change his mindset if President-elect Donald Trump appeals to him. "I have talked to Trump, he was very nice, very courteous," he said. "I could not sense any hostile drift, or even the manner he was saying it, so, in deference, I'll just wait. I will let Obama fade away and if he disappears, then I will begin to reassess."
He and Mr Trump acknowledged each other's similarly brash manners, he said. "We talk in the same language," Mr Duterte said. He recalled that when he told Mr Trump in a recent phone call that "I like your mouth, it's like mine," Mr. Trump responded by saying, "Yes, Mr President, we're similar.
"And you know, people with the same feather flock together," Mr Duterte said.
By Jim Gomez, John Sharman - the Independent/Dec. 17, 2016
Montage: bt2h (tropic a meta; independent; us news; cnn)
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