Palace: Don’t ‘interpret’ Duterte split from US

Camille Elemia
Palace: Don’t ‘interpret’ Duterte split from US

King Rodriguez

'We still have to wait for guidelines. There is no rush to interpret the speech of the President,' says Assistant Secretary Marie Banaag on the President's announcement of separation from US

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – It’s not enough to take his word for it. Don’t interpret, wait for him to return to Manila.

This is what Malacañang advised the public on Friday, October 21, a day after President Rodrigo Duterte announced “his separation” from the United States.

Communications Assistant Secretary Marie Banaag said the public should not make any interpretation just yet, even if it’s the President himself, the highest official of the country, who uttered those words.

“We should not make any interpretations yet and it can wait. Let’s not make any haka-haka (guess) muna about it because once the paper is in, I don’t think there is a need for us to make haka-haka on that. Because once the paper is out already on that matter, then it would be clear anong direction ang tatahakin natin (what direction we will be taking),” Banaag said in a press briefing.

Even the government is still unsure of the next course of action, as Banaag said they, too, are still awaiting guidelines from the President on the next steps to take.

“We still have to wait for guidelines. There is no rush for us to interpret the speech of the President. As to the speech of the President, we have to wait for the guidelines coming from him, coming from DFA as soon as they come back,” she said.

It is not the first time Duterte lashed out at the United States, the country’s biggest ally. It started during the campaign when he called US Ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg as gay. It escalated when he denounced US President Barack Obama for calling him out on the alleged human rights abuses in the country amid his intensified war on drugs.

Duterte also said the Philippines would survive without the United States and other Western allies. The President also wants to cancel the joint military exercises of the 2 countries.

Despite all these strong pronouncements, it is still unclear if there were signed documents to back them up. The US is also seeking clarification, as it has not yet received official documents or request to alter ties.

Asked about it, Banaag refused to answer: “We cannot pre-empt. I cannot comment.”

No need to worry

Amid all the lashing out, Malacañang assured the public, both here and abroad, that there is nothing to worry about.

Banaag said the President is only likely referring to transactions between governments. This, however, would have an impact on Filipinos. The US is a major trade partner of the Philippines.

“In fact, on the light of this matter, since walang pagbabasehan na papel, ‘di kailangan mag-worry or mag-react tayo kung ano man nasabi ng Pangulo. Since wala pa sa papel po, especially for private businessmen dito o sa Amerika, wala dapat ikabahala. Kung meron tinutukoy ang Pangulo, it would be government transactions,” she said.

(In fact, in light of this matter, since there is no document for basis yet, there is no need to worry or react to what the President said. Since there is no paper yet, especially for private businessmen here and in the US, there is no need to worry. If the President is pointing at something, it would be government transactions.)

Duterte on Thursday, October 20, announced his separation from the US – both in military and economy – in front of Chinese and Filipino businessmen.

“I announce my separation from the United States, both in military but economics also,” said Duterte on Thursday, October 20, during the Philippines-China Trade and Investment Forum.

“So, please, you have another problem of economics in my country. I am separated from them so I will be dependent on you for a long time,” Duterte said, before chuckling.

He also criticized the Americans for being a “discourteous people” who are too loud for Asian sensibilities. –

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Camille Elemia

Camille Elemia is a former multimedia reporter for Rappler. She covered media and disinformation, the Senate, the Office of the President, and politics.