‘GO TO HELL’: Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte tells President Obama

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte

The president of the Philippines has hit out at ally Barack Obama in his latest tirade against the US over its criticism of his deadly anti-drug campaign.

During a speech, Rodrigo Duterte told the US president “you can go to hell”, while also lashing out at the European Union – another critic of the campaign – as he said the 28-nation bloc “better choose purgatory, hell is filled up”.

The president, who took office in June, has been sensitive to criticisms over his anti-drug fight, which has left an estimated 3,000 suspected drug dealers and pushers dead in just three months, alarming the United Nations, the EU, the US and human rights watchdogs.

The tough-talking former city mayor, who describes himself as a left-leaning leader, has had an uneasy relationship with the US and Mr Obama and has declared intentions to bolster relations with China and Russia as he revamps the country’s foreign policy that has long leaned on Washington.

In his speech, Mr Duterte outlined his disappointments with the US, which has asked his government to stop the widespread killings under his anti-drug campaign and has questioned whether human rights are being violated.

He also described Washington as an unreliable ally, saying Filipino forces have not benefited from joint combat exercises with US troops.

“Instead of helping us, the first to criticise is this State Department, so you can go to hell, Mr Obama, you can go to hell,” Mr Duterte said.

Angered by US criticism, Mr Duterte has made a series of public pronouncements that he could scale back the activities and presence of visiting US troops in the country. He said he wants them out of the volatile south, saying their presence has inflamed restiveness among minority Muslims, which could complicate efforts to forge a peace accord with Muslim insurgents.

Mr Duterte has announced he will not allow the Philippine navy to conduct joint patrols with the US military in the disputed South China Sea because it could spark an armed conflict in Philippine territory.

Still, Mr Duterte has said he will not abrogate a 1951 Mutual Defence Treaty with the US and will maintain the long alliance with America, one of his country’s largest trading partners and provider of development and military aid and defence equipment.

Last week, Mr Duterte said the joint US-Philippine combat exercises to be held this week, the first of his presidency, would also be the last of his tenure. The exercises, centring on amphibious landing drills, started on Tuesday under some uncertainty because of those remarks.

Marine commanders from both sides said at the opening ceremony that the exercises, involving 1,100 American and 400 Filipino military personnel, are aimed at improving readiness by the two countries to respond to a range of crises while deepening their historic ties.

US Embassy officials said Washington has not been formally notified by the Philippine government of any move to scrap other planned drills. Such a move by the Philippines would impede Washington’s plans to expand the footprint of US forces in south-east Asia to counter China.