Washington extends hand to Duterte, praises Philippine democracy
Camille Diola (philstar.com) - May 13, 2016 - 12:12am

MANILA, Philippines — The United States on Friday (Manila time) extended its congratulations to presumptive president-elect Rodrigo Duterte in a formal statement and praised the conduct of the May 9 national elections.

"The United States offers its sincerest congratulations to the people of the Philippines on the conclusion of the May 9, 2016 general elections, and to the presumptive president-elect Rodrigo Duterte," Elizabeth Trudeau, press official of the Department of State, said.

Trudeau said Washington is looking forward to the conclusion of the electoral process, which upholds democratic values which the two countries share.

"The successful elections in the Philippines, and its record-setting number of voters, are a testament to the Philippines's vibrant democracy," she said.

On Monday, the Commission on Elections announced a historic 81.62-percent voter turnout. Duterte also earned nearly 16 million votes as of Friday morning's unofficial count. The number broke President Benigno Aquino III's record of 15 million votes garnered in 2010.

At a press conference earlier this week, Daniel Russel, the top American diplomat for the Asia Pacific, said the US celebrates its longtime security ally's "open and healthy democratic system."

"The choice of president is 100 percent up to the people of the Philippines. We will respect their choice and we will gladly work with the leader that they select as we have for decades," Russel said.

Duterte, who expressed his views about the US on the campaign trail, dared the US and Australia to cut ties with the Philippines after ambassadors of two nations condemned his remarks on rape.

The Davao City mayor apologized for what he admitted was a "bad joke" but asked the two diplomats to "shut their mouths" and to stay out of Philippine politics.

"I never interfere in their elections. If I become president, go ahead and sever it (relationship with the Philippines)," the mayor was quoted by reports as saying.

Duterte's campaign team recently vowed that the mayor, known for his tough stance against crime in his hometown and crude language, will temper his tone once president.

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