Estrada backs Duterte pivot to China, hits US ‘meddling’

Khristine Montenegro

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Estrada backs Duterte pivot to China, hits US ‘meddling’
Former president Joseph Estrada says he fears that the United States will seek the ouster of President Rodrigo Duterte

MANILA, Philippines – Former president and now Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada expressed support for President Rodrigo Duterte’s pivot to China, but warned the President that the United States could push for his ouster as a result.

In a statement on Saturday, October 22, Estrada said Beijing “never interferes” in Manila’s affairs, unlike Washington.

“‘Di komo tinutulungan tayo ng US, papakialaman naman nila internal problems natin (Just because the US gives us aid doesn’t mean they have the right to meddle in our internal problems). We are a sovereign country. We have our own Constitution,” he said.

“[Ang] China ‘di nakikialam sa ‘tin, sa ating independence (China does not interfere in our affairs, trample on our independence).”

Estrada claimed that during his presidency, the US government would “always try to coax him into doing what they want, according to their self-interests.”

An example, he said, was a letter sent to him in 2000 by then US Defense Secretary William Cohen, who urged him to stop the Philippine government’s all-out war against the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). The military offensive led to the fall of MILF base Camp Abubakar and claimed hundreds of lives. (READ: Why Mindanao is Erap country)

“When they suddenly removed me [from office], pinabayaan nila MILF, kaya ‘yun, nagtuluy-tuloy pa rin sa pambobomba,” he said.

(When they suddenly removed me from office, they failed to address the MILF rebellion, so bombings continued.)

Estrada also insisted the US had a hand in his ouster in 2001 – something which he now says could also happen to Duterte.

“‘Yun ang pangamba ko, sa ‘kin nga ginawa, eh,” Estrada said.

(That’s my fear because the US did that to me.)

While Estrada expressed distrust in the US, a recent survey by the Social Weather Stations showed that 76% of Filipinos have “much trust” in the US, compared to China with 22%. (READ: Most Filipinos don’t share Duterte’s trust in China, distrust in US – SWS)

Duterte has since clarified the Philippines will not cut ties with the US, saying Manila will only “chart another way” in terms of foreign policy.

“What I was really saying was, separation of a foreign policy. In the past, and until I became president, we always follow what the US would give the cue. What he would give, the cue, that we are there, we are there, we follow. Pasunod-sunod tayo. ‘Di ako magsunod (We always follow. I won’t follow),” said Duterte upon his return from his state visit to China. –

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