Duterte rants about U.S. ‘insult’ in front of new envoy

Pia Ranada
Duterte rants about U.S. ‘insult’ in front of new envoy
New US Ambassador Sung Kim manages to keep a straight face during Duterte's tirade

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte ranted about the non-renewal of a United States aid package in front of new US Ambassador Sung Kim.

“Millennium Challenge? $400 million? China is going to release to me $15 billion. Go home. I do not need your aid,” said Duterte on Monday, December 19, during a Go Negosyo Christmas Town Hall for peace and development in Sulu held at the Palace.

He was referring to the aid package from the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), a US aid-giving body. MCC’s board of directors recently decided not to award the Philippines a new grant. (READ: US stops aid package to PH over rights concerns)

Ambassador Kim sat in the front row of Duterte’s audience. 

“To hear them say we will cut your aid if this thing happens again [inaudible]. Shut up. I do not need your assistance,” continued Duterte.

He seemed to notice Kim was in the audience because he said after a while: “When you are dealing with Asians, with due respect to the ambassador of the US, you’re dealing with Asians, be careful of your language. You cannot do that to the Japanese and to the Koreans, they’ll feel insulted.”

Kim is Korean by descent and was born in Seoul, South Korea.

Straight face

Awkwardly, video cameras broadcasting footage of the event in large white screens cut to Kim’s face during this part of Duterte’s speech.

Kim managed to keep a straight face.

“It is actually an insult as well so I hope we can undertand each other here,” said Duterte.

He repeated his suggestion that the US air its concerns to the United Nations which can then conduct an investigation into reports of extrajudicial killings in the Philippines.

“Why do we have to say we will cut your aid? Just say outright, please stop or this. We are members of the United Nations correct? You guys put your complaint there for the violations then whatever happens there, the human rights commission shall conduct an investigation,” said Duterte.

The UN, through UN special rapporteur on summary killings Agnes Callamard already hopes to conduct such an investigation. But Callamard said she could not comply with Duterte’s conditions for the probe, in particular his demand for her to respond to his questions under oath and during a public forum.

The President echoed the sentiments of his economic advisers in downplaying the impact of MCC’s non-renewed aid on the Philippines.

He said China is ready to offer $15 billion in assistance. Duterte did not elaborate where this aid from China will go to.

Days ago, Duterte seemed to take a liking to Kim, in contrast to the previous US Ambassador Philip Goldberg.

“They have a very good ambassador of Korean descent. He’s very courteous,” said the President during a Davao City press conference on December 17.

In comparison, Duterte was openly hostile to Goldberg whom he called a “homosexual” who “irritates” him. – Rappler.com 

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Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada is a senior reporter for Rappler covering Philippine politics and environmental issues. For tips and story suggestions, email her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.