Since when has a US deputy Cabinet official been authorized to be spokesman for the rest of the world on issues and concerns over purely domestic Philippine affairs?
And how dare he pontificate on the incorrectness of the Duterte administration’s foreign policy pronouncements as well as its relentless police operations against illegal drugs?
It is impolitic for a top diplomat to issue statements that may be broadly construed to be offending the sensibilities of the host country.
And yet this is exactly what the US top diplomat for the Asia-Pacific region did.
President Duterte’s fiery rhetoric and deadly crime war are becoming a growing concern around the world, the top US envoy for Asia warned on Monday in Manila.
US Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Daniel Russel met with the Philippines’ defense and foreign secretaries on Monday, after Duterte last week announced his nation’s “separation” from the United States.
Duterte quickly walked back from the statement, saying he did not plan to sever the nations’ seven-decade alliance, but Russel signalled many people around the world were becoming increasingly worried about the Filipino president’s repeated tirades.
“The succession of controversial statements, comments and a real climate of uncertainty about the Philippines’ intentions have created consternation in a number of countries,” Russel said.
“Not only in mine and not only among governments, but also growing concern in other communities, in the expat Filipino community, in corporate boardrooms as well. This is not a positive trend.”
Such intemperate remarks are bound to generate hostile reaction from Malacañang, the Congress, and civil society which are generally supportive of the President’s foreign and domestic policies.
Russel said he also directly conveyed to Philippine Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay American concerns about Duterte’s war on crime, which has claimed about 3,700 lives in less than four months and raised fears about mass extrajudicial killings.
“I also reiterated the importance that we place and that others place on due process and respect for the rights of citizens as an important part of protecting our communities as well,” Russel said
“And the growing uncertainty about this and other issues is bad for business as well.”
US Secretary of State John Kerry rang Yasay on Monday to discuss the alliance, Russel said.
Duterte has frequently voiced deep anger at American criticism of his efforts to eliminate drugs in society, repeatedly branding President Barack Obama as a “son of a whore” and telling him to “go to hell” for expressing concerns.
Duterte, who describes himself as a socialist, has sought to diminish his nation’s alliance with the United States in favor of closer ties with China and Russia.
Duterte’s “separation” remark was made during a four-day state visit to China.
“America has lost. I’ve realigned myself in your ideological flow and maybe I will also go to Russia to talk to (President Vladimir) Putin and tell him that there are three of us against the world: China, Philippines and Russia. It’s the only way,” Duterte said in Beijing.
Immediately upon returning to the Philippines, Duterte said he would not cut ties with the United States, but he nevertheless launched another profanity-laced critique.
“If there is one thing that America has failed miserably, it is in the province of the human dignity,” Duterte said on Saturday.