US on Duterte: Gov’t not on shoulders of one man

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

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US on Duterte: Gov’t not on shoulders of one man


'Yes, he's the head of state, but there are many agencies in his government,' says US State Department Spokesman John Kirby

MANILA, Philippines – The United States stressed the need to keep good relations with Philippine government agencies as Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte continues insulting Washington.

US State Department Spokesman John Kirby was asked on Wednesday, November 2, how the US can have a close relationship with the Philippine government when it can’t have a close relationship with the Philippine head of state.

“Well, because the government isn’t – doesn’t rest – especially in a democracy, it doesn’t rest on the shoulders of just one individual,” Kirby said in a media briefing in Washington.

“Yes, he’s the head of state, but there are many agencies in his government, there are many Cabinet officials, there are longstanding relationships that we have nurtured over the years with figures in his government, and those relationships are still there and they’re still vibrant,” he added. 

This comes after Duterte on Wednesday cursed the US for reportedly planning to stop selling more than 26,000 assault rifles to the Philippine government.

Kirby was later asked a follow-up question if he is suggesting that the US would “circumvent” Duterte and deal with government agencies instead. 

“Not at all,” Kirby said. 

He explained: “I was simply referring to the fact that in a democratic government such as the Philippines, that tasks are delegated to various agencies and that we have relationships with these institutions and agencies. Those are solid. They remain.” 

“Obviously, you also need to develop a good working relationship with the head of state. And I can tell you, as I’ve said before from this podium, we’re committed to doing that,” he said.

Duterte is also the Philippines’ chief diplomat under Philippine laws.

Duterte’s style of diplomacy, however, has drawn flak for the past 4 months, with him even cursing world leaders such as US President Barack Obama and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. 

Experts have said Duterte needs to behave diplomatically for the sake of Filipinos abroad, among others. –

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Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He finished MA Journalism in Ateneo and MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email