PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte on Monday thanked the United States for providing technical assistance in the government’s battle against Islamist terrorists in Mindanao, after more than a year of cursing at Washington for criticizing his bloody campaign against illegal drugs.
While insisting he did not seek US help to end the siege in Marawi City, Duterte on Sunday softened his critical stance toward the country’s longstanding ally.
“My quarrel was not with the Americans, but that son-of-a-bitch [President Barrack] Obama,” Duterte said. “My quarrel was with the State Department and Obama who were reprimanding me in public as if I were a federal employee.”
Unlike Obama, President Donald Trump has been very supportive of his anti-illegal drug campaign, Duterte said.
Duterte thanked the American forces on the ground providing assistance to Filipino troops, albeit reluctantly.
“I have to be thankful. It’s already there,” he said.
Duterte said he can’t do anything about the pro-American sentiments of the military, many of whom were educated in US schools.
“This is really their sentiment, our soldiers are really pro-American, that I cannot deny,” the President said.
“Almost all officers will go to America to study... That’s why they have rapport and I cannot deny that,” he added.
Since Saturday, American Special Forces have provided help in aerial surveillance and targeting, electronic eavesdropping, communications assistance and training.
The military confirmed that while US forces were providing technical assistance, they did not join in the fighting.
Duterte, who came to power a year ago, has taken a very hostile stance towards Washington and vowed to abrogate various agreements signed between the two countries, including the Mutual Defense Treaty, the Visiting Forces Agreement and the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement and announced Manila’s “separation” from Washington and shift towards Beijing and Moscow—all because of their criticism of his anti-drug campaign.
Washington’s envoy to Manila, Sung Kim said the US will continue to provide support to the military in the battle against extremists, but declined to say what kind of help his government was providing.
“I don’t think it is appropriate [to reveal] technical details of what we are providing,” he said when asked if US troops have been deployed to Marawi.
US Secretary of state Rex Tillerson said that his country “proudly stands” with the Philippines in its fight against terrorism in Marawi City, Mindanao.
In a statement, Tillerson said that the American government admired the resilience and strength of Filipino people in times of conflict.
“The United States proudly stands with the Philippines as a longstanding ally, especially as the country confronts challenges associated with terrorism and extremism, including recent attacks in Marawi City and elsewhere,” Tillerson said.
“We admire the resilience and strength of Filipino people in battling adversity and building a more prosperous and secure future,” he added.
The United States’ statement came days after its embassy confirmed that the US forces arrived in the Marawi to crush the Maute Group, through the Philippine government’s request.
Lt. Col. Jo-Ar Herrera, 1st Infantry Battalion spokesman, said the assistance of the US was limited to technical support.
Tillerson said the American government will honor the 50-year US-Philippine alliance.
“On this special day, we honor the enduring US-Philippine alliance, built on our shared democratic values, growing commerce, and strong people-to-people ties,” he said.
“On behalf of President Trump and the American people, congratulations and best wishes to the people of the Republic of the Philippines as you commemorate your 119th Independence Day on June 12,” he added.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said Monday the help of the US troops in the Marawi siege was vital to providing troops with information about precise movements on the ground.
“What General [Carlito] Galves did was, he brought three people with equipment that can help with the surveillance of the movements of the enemy not only in Marawi but the entire Lanao Del Sur,” Lorenzana said.
The Defense chief added that the central bank and the Finance department were already tracing the source of the P72.9 million in cash and checks found in a Maute house in Marawi City.
The military’s engineering brigade, he also said, was on standby to help residents of the city rebuild their houses and government facilities.
He said he has already recommended a draft executive order to rehabilitate Marawi City at an initial cost of P10 billion.
Leftist groups on Monday criticized the involvement of American troops in the Marawi City siege.
The peasant group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas said the United States had a long history of instigating proxy wars.
“Wherever there is US involvement and presence of US troops, there is war and destruction, the group said in a statement.
The Gabriela Women’s Party also denounced the involvement of US troops, saying this showed the continued subservience to foreign interests.
“A country that gave rise to terrorists and launched wars in many parts of the globe should have no business in crushing terrorists and in supposedly restoring peace in Marawi City. US troops must be immediately kicked out,” Gabriela Party-List Rep. Emmi De Jesus said.
Earlier, Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate also questioned the presence of US troops in Marawi City.
“The question is did the US troops know beforehand that there would be a Maute/ISIS attack but allowed it to happen as payback for President Duterte’s anti-US rhetoric?” Zarate said.
“Are they now just offering their support because it is almost over and they want to again have a pretext for an anti-terror campaign in the Philippines?” Zarate said. “We must always be wary of US support.” With Sara Susanne D. Fabunan, Sandy Araneta and Maricel Cruz