MANILA – The Philippine government "does not rest on the shoulders of just one individual,” the US State Department said, as Washington tries to deal with firebrand President Rodrigo Duterte.
US Department of State spokesperson John Kirby made this statement in the wake of Duterte’s fresh tirades against the US over the reported halt in the sale of some 26,000 assault rifles to the Philippines.
“The government isn’t – doesn’t rest – especially in a democracy, it doesn’t rest on the shoulders of just one individual,” Kirby said in a news conference.
“Yes, he’s the head of state, but there are many agencies in his government. There are many cabinet officials. There are longstanding relationships that we have nurtured over the years with figures in his government, and those relationships are still there and they’re still vibrant.”
Kirby, however, clarified that he was “simply referring to the fact that in a democratic government such as the Philippines, tasks are delegated to various agencies and that we have relationships with these institutions and agencies.”
Kirby also said his statement does not mean that the US will circumvent Duterte in dealing with the Philippine government.
Duterte lashed out at the US on Wednesday after learning of reports that the US State Department halted the sale of the rifles to the Philippines due to concerns over the Filipino leader’s bloody war on drugs that has left over 2,000 drug suspects dead.
In railing at the US over the reported decision, Duterte also called the US “monkeys."
Kirby said Duterte’s tirades are “inexplicably at odds…with the close relationship that we continue to have with not just the Filipino people but the Filipino government.”
Duterte has sought to forge closer ties with China, despite the Philippines’ dispute with its giant Asian neighbor over the West Philippine Sea.
The tough-talking leader is also angry at Washington’s criticism of his war on drugs, saying the Americans do not understand his campaign.
While on a state visit to China earlier this month, Duterte announced the Philippines' "separation" from the US, its only treaty ally. He also said long-running war games would be scrapped.
Duterte had also protested the alleged intrusion of US authorities in the case of Davao bombing suspect Michael Meiring.