Duterte rhetoric causes 'head-scratching' in US – envoy

MANILA, Philippines – Outgoing US Ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg voiced concern about the anti-US rhetoric of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, the kind that the US has heard elsewhere "but not from a friend and ally."

In a Rappler Talk interview with Maria Ressa on Thursday, October 20, Goldberg also said a perceived anti-US sentiment is affecting the Philippines' global image. 

"The rhetoric that we've heard is something that causes a bit of head-scratching and quite frankly a bit of concern in Washington, because we don't necessarily think that this is something that is consistent with a friend and ally," Goldberg said. 

"We've never heard…that kind of rhetoric from a friend and ally, certainly. We have from other places but not from a friend and ally," he also said.

Goldberg made these remarks days after Duterte threatened to cut ties with the US and strengthen alliances with China and Russia. (READ: PH-China ties 'shouldn't be at expense' of US – envoy )

A few hours after Goldberg's interview with Rappler last Thursday, Duterte announced in China his "separation from the United States" in economic and military terms. 

Philippines' image affected

Duterte has also described Goldberg, one of the most senior US diplomats, as "gay" and a "son of a bitch." 

Duterte's comments have fueled perceptions of anti-US sentiment in the Philippines, even as a recent survey showed that 76% of Filipinos have "much trust" in America.

Discussing the Philippines' global image, Goldberg cited a recent violent clash at the US embassy in Manila as an example.

Referring to the embassy clash, Goldberg said: "You know, that was on the 3 network newscasts in the United States – ABC, NBC, and CBS. The video was shocking, but it was also tied to a kind of anti-US riot."

Goldberg pointed out that leftists "demonstrate in front of the embassy regularly, the leftist militant groups." Wednesday's protesters, however, formed "a larger group than usual, and maybe that's because of some of the environment at the moment."

"But it's also the case that that's the image that’s created, and it feeds on that," Goldberg said.

"You have to deal with the perceptions also. And then if you add in some of the rhetoric and the rest, that's the impression that's created – in Europe, in the United States, in many parts of the world." – Rappler.com

WATCH: Full interview with Ambassador Goldberg

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II is a senior reporter leading Rappler’s coverage of 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 him at pat.esmaquel@rappler.com.

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