Duterte threatens to cut US relations

Rodrigo Duterte is often compared to US Republican hopeful Donald Trump. Source: YouTube

The Philippine’s presidential frontrunner is warning that he is prepared to cut diplomatic ties with Washington and Canberra, if he wins the May 9 election, after their ambassadors criticised his “jokes” about an Australian missionary’s rape and murder.

Rodrigo Duterte told the diplomats to “shut their mouths”, amid anger at his comments last week when he said he wanted to have been the first to rape the woman who was brutalised and murdered in a 1989 prison riot. “I was mad [the missionary] was raped but she was so beautiful. I thought, the mayor should have been first,” he told a rally.

“If I become president, go ahead and sever [diplomatic relations],” said the 71-year-old, in reference to two of the Philippines’ closest allies.

Duterte, who has called Pope Francis a “son of a bitch” during the campaign, has promised to kill tens of thousands of criminals.

“The drug pushers, kidnappers, robbers, find them all and arrest them. If they resist, kill them all,” he told about 2,000 people in Manila who shook their fists. “Go ahead and charge me with murder, so I could also kill you.”

Duterte at the time of the prison riot was mayor of the southern Philippines city of Davao, where he was accused of organising vigilante death squads responsible for more than 1,000 deaths.

On the campaign trail Duterte has boasted about running death squads, claiming they executed 1,700 people but he has also denied being linked to them.

Duterte has sent out mixed messages about his rape comments, with his media team releasing a statement apologising but he has also told the media that he would not backtrack.

Australian ambassador Amanda Gorely tweeted: “Rape and murder should never be joked about or trivialised. Violence against women and girls is unacceptable anytime, anywhere.”

US ambassador Philip Goldberg told CNN Philippines: “Statements by anyone, anywhere that either degrade women or trivialise issues so serious as rape or murder are not ones that we condone.”

Duterte was typically outspoken in his response. “It would do well with the American ambassador and the Australian ambassador to shut their mouths,” he told the media.

Both embassies have declined to comment.

Outgoing President Benigno Aquino criticised Duterte’s remarks, while warning voters not to support candidates who could undermine the economic growth seen during his maximum six-year term. Aquino is backing his former interior secretary Mar Roxas, who trails Duterte in the polls.

“What do we gain by this? America is a very big trading partner, Australia has been helping us … so what is the value? If there is no value, why will you do it?” he told a press conference. “I do have to thank [the other candidates] for showing how different their styles are from ours.”