THE U.S. is still regarded as a trusted ally of the Philippines but the Southeast Asian country will not accept lectures on human rights as a condition for receiving aid from America, said a top Filipino diplomat.
Philippines Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay said Thursday, “We cannot … forever be the little brown brothers of America,” as he appealed for mutual respect between the allied nations.
Yasay sought to reassure an audience at a Washington think tank about Manila’s commitment to positive relations with the United States, its former colonial power.
His address came amid strains in the relationship caused by recent remarks made by the Southeast Asian nation’s new president, Rodrigo Duterte, whose bloody war on his country’s drug trade has been criticized by the U.S.
Yasay said America should not provide assistance to the Philippines at the expense of Washington giving lectures on human rights.
“You do not go to the Philippines and say, ‘I am going to give you something. I am going to help you grow, but this is the checklist you must comply with. We will lecture you on human rights,’ ” Voice of America quoted Yasay as saying.
Yasay said the Philippine government would never condone unlawful killings.
“I am asking our American friends, American leaders, to look at our aspirations,” Yasay said. “We cannot forever be the little brown brothers of America. … We have to develop, we have to grow and become the big brother of our own people.”
Since 1950, the U.S. has accounted for some 75 percent of the Philippines’ arms import but now the country is expecting a boost to its military arsenal thanks to China and Russia in yet another sign that it may be charting a course away from its long-time ally.
The Duterte administration recently declared its controversial crackdown on the Philippines’ narcotics trade a “success”, saying supply in the country has been cut by an impressive 90 percent since the campaign began earlier this year.
Malacañang, which refers to the official residence and principal workplace of Duterte, said this after acknowledging that the campaign has also resulted in 2,956 drug-related deaths, more than half of which were caused by vigilante groups.
The killings have drawn criticisms from international human rights groups and allied governments, including the U.S., with President Barack Obama voicing his concern on the matter during a regional summit last week.
Duterte last week caused a stir at the Asean Summit in Laos when he lashed out at Obama ahead of the two leaders’ maiden meeting, calling the latter a “son of a bitch”.
The tough-talking Filipino president later backtracked on his words and expressed regret but then again at a meeting attended by Obama, he launched into a tirade against former colonizers of the Philippines.
Apart from the killings, Duterte’s drug war has also seen the arrest of more than 16,000 suspects, while some 700,000 have self-surrendered.
Earlier this week, Duterte called for U.S. forces in the country to leave, saying America was to blame for the unrest among Muslim militants in the region and the deaths of Muslim Filipinos during a U.S. pacification campaign in the early 1900s.
Additional reporting from the Associated Press