US says it will work with controversial new Philippines leader

Presidential candidate Mayor Rodrigo Duterte speaks in front of a communist rebel group New People's Army (NPA) flag during the release of five policemen held by the rebels for a week, in Davao city, southern Philippines, April 25, 2016. (Reuters)

The United States said on Tuesday it would work with the apparent victor of the Philippines presidential election but declined to say if it had any concerns about the controversial policies advocated by maverick Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte.

“Washington respects the choice of the Philippine people. We gladly work with the leaders they’ve selected,” State Department spokeswoman Elizabeth Trudeau said without identifying Duterte by name.

When pressed about whether the United States had any concerns about positions advocated by the tough-talking Duterte, including extrajudicial killings to stamp out crimes and drugs, Trudeau repeated her statement that Washington respected the choice of the voters.

“We look forward to working with the leader that the Philippines has elected,” she said.

An official winner had not yet been declared in the Philippines vote, but an unofficial count by an election commission-accredited watchdog showed he had a huge lead over his two closest rivals, both of whom conceded defeat.

Trudeau said several of the presidential contenders had noted that a winner had been unofficially named and welcomed the fact that the vote had been conducted “smoothly and enjoyed historically high levels of participation.”

Duterte’s vows to restore law and order resonated with Philippine voters, but his incendiary rhetoric and advocacy of extrajudicial killings to stamp out crime and drugs alarmed many people, who saw it as harkening back to the country’s authoritarian past.

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Last Update: 06:48 KSA 09:48 - GMT 06:48
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