No CIA plot to oust Duterte — US envoy
Pia Lee-Brago (The Philippine Star) - October 26, 2017 - 4:00pm

MANILA, Philippines — The United States’ top diplomat in the Philippines denied yesterday that the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) is backing a plot to destabilize President Duterte.

Ambassador Sung Kim said Duterte won in an impressive election and the “US respects his election.”

“We are working very well together with this administration,” he said.

Duterte alleged the CIA was part of a plot to destabilize him and warned of establishing a “revolutionary government.”

“As far as I know, there is absolutely no effort by the CIA to undermine the Philippine leadership,” Kim said at a forum of the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines (FOCAP).

He said it is more important for the US to focus on what Washington is doing with its relationship with the Philippines than public statements. 

“I will also share that when I meet with President Duterte, he’s very clear about his respect for Philippines-US relationship, including the military relationship,” Kim said.

“He is also very clear about his desire to have a strong, constructive, mutually beneficial relationship with the United States,” he said.

In September, the Philippines discussed with the US its openness to receive independent observers or investigators to look into the drug problem and the government’s campaign against illegal drugs, saying the country has nothing to hide.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano told US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson during a meeting in Washington that the Philippines is open to receive observers or investigators if they can give assurance that they would be independent, fair and would not politicize investigations.

“We would welcome experts if they can assure us they would not politicize the investigations because we want to make sure the outcome would be credible,”he said.

Cayetano also clarified to his counterpart that the Philippines does not have a state policy allowing extrajudicial killings, especially that of illegal drug suspects.

US plays role in beating IS in Phl

Meanwhile, Kim said the US played a “very important role” in defeating Islamic State (IS) supporters who occupied parts of Marawi City for five months.

He highlighted American intelligence, urban warfare training and drones as among the factors that helped end the conflict in Marawi on Monday, which local authorities said claimed more than 1,100 lives.

“We did play a very important role in supporting the efforts to retake Marawi,” Kim told reporters.

“We had P-3s (surveillance planes), Grey Eagles (drones) providing crucial intelligence information to the Armed Forces of the Philippines so that they would be able to carry out operations necessary to retake Marawi.”

He also said US forces provided “very useful technical advice,” especially in the area of urban warfare where they had more experience than Filipino troops.

The United States also provided guns, ammunition and rubber boats to the Philippine military, while committing P750 million  ($14.7million) in aid to residents forced out of their homes because of the war, Kim said.

He said the United States had about 100 to 200 troops based in Mindanao to train and advise local forces in battling Muslim extremists.

The US and the Philippines are longtime allies, with the nations bound by a mutual defense pact, he added.

Back to normal

However, Duterte has sought to loosen his nation’s alliance with the United States in favor of closer ties with China and Russia.

He last year called the then US president Barack Obama a “son of a whore” and said he planned to cancel all military exercises with the US.

His anger was partly driven by American criticism of his crackdown on drugs, which has seen police kill thousands of people and led rights groups to warn that Duterte may be orchestrating a crime against humanity.

But relations have improved under Obama’s successor, Donald Trump, who has praised Duterte for his drug war.

Kim said the US-Philippine ties were “back to normal,” and cited a resumption of regular joint military exercises.

He also said the United States was not concerned about the Philippines’ deepening relationship with China and Russia, which has seen them for the first time provide significant amounts of military hardware.

“I’m not in any way threatened by the fact that China and Russia are also providing military assistance to the Philippines,” Kim said. – With AFP

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