US embassy excited by Duterte for President
BY ROGER M. BALANZA
Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte may not exactly be friendly with the United States but an American official expressed excitement over Duterte’s possible entry into the presidential race in 2016.
It would be colorful, said Kurt Hoyer, First Secretary and Press Attaché of the US Embassy in the Philippines.
Duterte has emerged as a potential candidate for the presidency after landing third, after Vice President Jejomar Binay and Senator Grace Poe, in the latest survey for presidential preference by the Social Weather Stations and Pulse Asia.
I think that would be a very colorful race, said Hoyer in Davao City on May 11 to attend a World Press Freedom Day photo exhibit and a forum on press freedom.
But Hoyer did not go beyond saying that Duterte would bring color to the race to Malacanang, when asked in the forum by media to comment on Duterte running for president.
He said American diplomatic officials in the Philippines are prohibited from making political comments lest they be accused of political interference.
Election is a matter for Filipinos to decide and not for us to get involved in, he said.
“You asked me to do two things that I am not able to do. One is interfering in Philippine politics, and one is to speculate about the future. I won’t do either.”
He said he will not speculate about the position of the US on the possibility of Duterte joining the presidential race next year.
Hoyer’s colorful projection of a Duterte presidential run albeit non-political is the first commentary by an American official on the Davao City mayor who in the past minced no words in attacking the US establishment, its personnel and policies.
Years ago, Duterte warned he would shoot agents of the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) who would set foot in Davao City.
This after FBI agents ferreted out of a local hospital Michael Terence Meiring, an American national, who lost his legs in a bomb explosion inside his hotel room in Davao City.
Meiring, who claimed to be a treasure hunter, reportedly was an agent of the FBI.
Duterte said Meiring should have answered for the damage he caused in the hotel. He also said Meiring could be behind the series of “US-inspired” bombings in Mindanao.
Meiring, 67, was hurriedly whisked out of the hospital by the FBI agents without knowledge or permission of authorities, and spirited out of the country on a chartered plane.
The May 16, 2002 hotel blast, and the undue import given by US authorities to Meiring then sparked speculation he was part of a network of US spies faking terror in the Philippines.
The blast at the Evergreen Hotel along Uyanguren Street. came at a time while a wave of terror was rocking the country in sporadic bombings, mostly in Mindanao, that killed scores of locals.
Duterte has also been a constant critic of the Balikatan, the annual joint military training of American and Filipino troopers and opposed holding of the military exercise in Davao City.
Last year, he also spurned request by the United States to use the old Davao International Airport as base of its drone operation in Mindanao.
Is Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte courting support of the United States for a possible presidential run in 2016.
Known for his vocal posturing against the US, Duterte has been kinder in words to the US recently as the Philippines is locked in territorial dispute with China over islands in the West Philippine Sea.
In Palawan during a recent edition of his Listening Tour, a series of speaking engagements and forums on Federalism, Duterte said that if he is the President, he would lease part of Palawan to the Americans where the US could build a base to help neutralize the Chinese invasion into Philippine territory.