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US envoys spy on, undermine governments: Philippine president

30 December 2016 17:01

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Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has accused US ambassadors of being spies and working to undermine governments, in remarks likely to further strain relations with Washington.

“Most of the ambassadors of the United States, but not all, are not really professional ambassadors. At the same time, they are spying, they are connected with the CIA,” Duterte said in a television interview on Thursday.

“The ambassador of a country is the number-one spy. But there are the ambassadors of the US, their forte is really to undermine governments,” he added.

The president was reacting to a report published by The Manila Times on Tuesday, according to which former US ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg had prepared a “blueprint to undermine Duterte.” The report, which cited information from a “highly placed source,” claimed Goldberg had outlined a list of “strategies” for the eventual ouster of the president.

Headed for conflict?

“You might be able to oust me, but I will give you a bloody nose,” Duterte said.

President Rodrigo Duterte (R) talks with Philip Goldberg, whose term as US ambassador recently expired, in Davao City, June 13, 2016. (Photo by AFP)

Washington has strongly criticized the Philippine president’s war on drugs which has made him enormously popular in the country.

It was not clear how far Duterte’s latest accusation would go to further undermine ties with Washington, already at a record low. The two countries have already significantly reduced military ties and, given the the Philippine president’s continuing fiery rhetoric, may be on their way to a diplomatic rupture.

The US State Department has denied the report against Goldberg, describing it as “false.” Daniel Russel, the US assistant secretary of state for East Asia and the Pacific, dismissed the claims, saying, “No such blueprint exists.”

Earlier this month, the US embassy in the Philippines said it was halting aid to Manila over remarks by Duterte. The president shrugged off the announcement, saying his country could live with less US aid.

Duterte held a brief phone call with US President-elect Donald Trump back in November, during which Trump praised his war on drugs and wished him luck. The two also extended travel invitations to each other.

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