MANILA (Reuters) - Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said on Wednesday he felt like a saint as the incoming U.S. president wanted to repair damaged bilateral relations between the two oldest security allies in this region.
Duterte spoke on the phone with U.S. President-elect Donald Trump last Friday to congratulate him and renew close ties and friendship strained by Washington’s criticism on the rising death toll by Manila’s war on drugs policy.
“Oh, President Duterte, we should fix our bad relations,” Duterte, who spoke at a United Nations-sponsored meeting on anti-corruption efforts, quoted the billionaire businessman-turned politician as saying during their phone conversation.
“You know, you just said something good here and you’re doing great. I know what’s your worry about these Americans criticizing you. You are doing good, go ahead,” he said Trump told him during their talk, which lasted over seven minutes.
He said Trump also invited him to exchange some views over a cup of coffee when he is either in New York or in Washington because he could give advice to the U.S. president-elect on how to deal with the narcotics issue
“I felt like a saint,” Duterte said, because Trump’s comments were a change from those by the current U.S. administration, which he said wanted him investigated by the International Criminal Court.
The unconventional Duterte has resented the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama for criticizing his human rights record as police forces in the Philippines killed more than 2,000 people in anti-narcotics operations.
On Monday, the new U.S. ambassador to Manila, Sung Kim, met with the president at Malacanang Palace where they had a brief exchanged and Duterte gave him some advice.:
“You want to be an Obama? Then, suffer the consequences. You choose Trump, he is my friend,” he said he told the envoy.
Two months ago in China, Duterte said he would order his defence and military leaders to cut down joint exercises with U.S. forces and review an existing deal allowing their deployment in local bases.
Reporting by Manuel Mogato; Editing by Tom Heneghan