MANILA — Malacañang on Monday said there was no basis for assuming that incoming US President Joe Biden would be tough on killings in the Philippines' anti-narcotics drive.
Biden, 77, an ally of former US President Barack Obama who drew curses from President Rodrigo Duterte for criticizing his war on drugs, will be inaugurated on Jan. 20 (Jan. 21 in the Philippines).
Asked if Biden might be tough on the drive compared to outgoing President Donald Trump, Duterte's spokesman Harry Roque, said "Wala po kaming comment d'yan. Wala pong basehan iyan."
(We have no comment there. That has no basis.)
"Ang meron po tayo ay mainit at malapit na relasyon sa bansang Estado Unidos," he told reporters in an online briefing.
(What we have is a warm and close relationship with the United States.)
Trump had praised Duterte for doing an "unbelievable job on the drug problem".
Duterte, for his part, regards Trump as "a good president" who "deserves to be re-elected", according his former spokesman, Salvador Panelo, in February last year.
Duterte continued though to hurl anti-US remarks and had adopted such policy as abrogating the two countries' Visiting Forces Agreement.
In October 2016, while in China, Duterte announced his "separation" from the United States, the only treaty ally of the Philippines.
"I've realigned myself in your ideological flow and maybe I will also go to Russia to talk to (President Vladimir) Putin and tell him that there are three of us against the world - China, Philippines and Russia. It's the only way," he said then.
That year, Obama urged Duterte's government to go after drug rings "the right way" because otherwise, "innocent people get hurt and you have a whole bunch of unintended consequences that don't solve the problem."
His supposed meeting with Duterte that year was cancelled after the Philippine leader called him a "son of a w****" and told him not to question him about extrajudicial killings.
Last November, Roque said that Duterte "is keeping an open mind, as he should" on Biden.
"It will be a new start, but we have no prejudgements as far as President-elect Biden is concerned other than the position that we're able and willing to work with all leaders of the world," Roque said.
The government's controversial drug war had resulted in the death of 5,980 people from July 1, 2016 until Nov. 30, 2020, according to official data. Rights groups, however, say thousands more died in alleged extrajudicial killings.