By Ed Diokno
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte drove another wedge between the Philippines and the United States when he pointed out that in his view Filipinos residing in the United States are no longer real Filipinos.
Duterte made his remarks In a speech in-front of the Filipino community in Beijing, He said that Filipino Americans are no longer genuine Filipinos but pure-bred Americans.
“E sabihin niya (Obama), well there are many Filipinos there (living in the US). Eh wala na yun. Puro Amerikano na yun. Ugali noon,” Duterte said, speaking in the popular idiom of Taglish, a combination of Tagalog and English.
He went on to say that Filipinos in China are treated better than Filipinos in the U.S.
“Oh bakit dito sa China, walang Pilipino? Sa mainland China about 300,000 Filipinos and yet China is very kind to us,” Duterte added.
There are 4 to 6 million Filipino Americans, many of whom are first-generation immigrants so ties with their home country are still strong. The money they send to their families in the Philippines is a critical part of that country’s economy.
During the Philippine elections last spring, thousands of Filipinos who hold dual citizenships for the U.S. and the Philippines were allowed to take part. According to reports by Filipino American publications, the majority of the voters favored Duterte.
In a speech in front of China’s leaders in Beijing’s Great Hall, Duterte announced, “In this venue, your honors, in this venue, I announce my separation from the United States.”
“This is not a positive trend,” U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Daniel Russel said after Duterte’s comments in Beijing. After meeting Philippine Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay, Russel added that the uncertainty was “bad for business.”
Clearly, the U.S. State Department’s Philippine Desk was caught off-guard by Duterte’s remarks leaving American businesses and politicians – not to mention, Filipino Americans – wondering what was the future of the generations-old relationship between the Philippines and the U.S.
It is ironic that Duterte made his remarks in the middle of October, which was declared Filipino American History Month on Oct. 1 by President Barack Obama.
In the declaration, Obama, who grew up among Filipino Americans in Hawaii, also thanked Filipino Americans who “have lent their unique voices and talents to changing our country for the better.”
“Their immeasurable contributions to our Nation reaffirm that as Americans we will always be bound to each other in common purpose and by our shared hopes for the future,” he said.
Obama himself was the target of one of Duterte’s tirades, calling him a “son of a b—h,” for daring to question the killings of thousands of Filipinos without due process. During his presidential campaign, Duterte promised to kill all drug dealers. The spate of deaths – some by the Philippine police forces and some by self-anointed vigilantes – apparently have the blessings of the Philippine president.
Shortly after Duterte’s verbal attack, Obama cancelled a scheduled visit to the Philippines during his recent Asian trip.
After visiting China, Duterte went to Japan where he added more fuel to fire when he questioned the military agreements between the U.S. and his country. The Philippine president told Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe that he wanted foreign troops out of the Philippines in two years.
Russel has tried to play down the idea that the U.S. and the Philippines is experiencing a rift, saying: “It is a mistake to think that improved relations between Manila and Beijing somehow comes at the expense of the United States. That’s not the way to think of it.”
“This should be additional not subtraction. We don’t want countries to choose between the U.S. and China.” he added.