US President Barack Obama has censured an American envoy stationed in the Philippines who gave out a statement that appeared to carry tones of American meddling in the forthcoming 2016 Philippine elections.
Obama, reports emanating from Washington say, reportedly had summoned Kurt Hoyer to the White House to explain his statement about Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte adding color to the Philippine presidential race next year.
Obama also reportedly lectured Hoyer on American policy against commenting on elections in foreign countries.
Hoyer, the First Secretary and Press Attaché of the US Embassy in the Philippines based in Manila, dished out the statement in Davao City on May 11 during a forum as part of the local celebration of the World Press Freedom Day, organized with the participation of the US embassy.
Obama apparently got wind of a report in the Davao City-based news site Durian Post which reported on Hoyer’s statement.
Although Hoyer told media in a forum that American embassy officials are estopped from commenting on local elections, his statement about Duterte’s entry in the presidential derby being ‘colorful’ may have given vague hints about US support for his presidential bid.
Obama reportedly shared this fear, and told Hoyer to keep his mouth shut when it comes to the Philippine election and Duterte.
Duterte, however, has not yet declared he is running for President.
Duterte has emerged as one of the leading contenders for the presidency, landing third in recent surveys on presidential preference behind Vice President Jejomar Binay and Senator Grace Poe.
But on the side, Obama, even as he censured Hoyer, according to the unconfirmed reports, reportedly appeared to be a Duterte fan.
I read he is the Philippine version of Rudy Giuliani, Obama, who could have read a piece written by Philippine Daily Inquirer columnist Mon Tulfo that compared the legendary New York City Mayor to Duterte, reportedly told Hoyer.
Hoyer was said to have also told Obama that Duterte, known in the past for his anti-American statements, may have a change of heart about the US.
He reportedly told about a report quoting Duterte that if he becomes the President he would lease out Palawan to the US where American troops and warships could be based to tame down China’s incursion into Philippine-claimed islands in the South China Sea (West Philippine Sea).
The US has warned it would increase presence of its maritime forces in the South China Sea if China continues with its expansionism in the contested area.
Duterte’s statement about American presence in the Philippines if he becomes the President carries pregnant hints about the possibility of the return to the country of US bases, which were closed down in 1992.
A source in Davao City said he heard of the Obama meeting with Hoyer from some members of the American Business Chamber chapter in the city.
Davao City has a large number of Americans, many of them permanently based for business.
The source who begged anonymity said a White House official reportedly called up an American businessman based in Davao City to provide Obama with a dossier on Duterte.
The source refused to speculate on Obama’s interest on Duterte but said it could have something to do with the coming presidential election and Duterte’s bid to capture Malacanang.
But he said that Obama was elated particularly by the erstwhile anti-American mayor’s recent “friendly comments” about the US and that he would allow US bases in the Philippines if he is elected President. ROGER M. BALANZA