Although there is a “personal relationship” between President Rodrigo Duterte and United States President Donald Trump, Malacañang is confident that the bilateral ties between Washington and Manila will remain unchanged whoever occupies the White House.
Duterte’s spokesperson Harry Roque expressed confidence that the Philippine leader will establish “equally warm” ties with whoever wins the 2020 presidential polls — whether it be incumbent Trump or Democratic challenger Joe Biden.
As of writing, polls across the US closed on Tuesday night (Wednesday in the Philippines). American news outlets reported that record-high 100 million voters showed up to polling centers despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
“You see, the State Department ensures continuity as far as US foreign policy is concerned. So, we don’t expect any major changes in bilateral relations between the Philippines and the United States,” Roque said in an interview over CNN Philippines ahead of the poll results.
“Of course, there is an issue of personal relations, but I think, given time, the President can establish equally warm personal relations with whoever wins this election even if it’s not President Trump,” he added.
The Palace official noted that it only took two years for President Duterte to develop a cordial relationship with Trump.
“All the President needed maybe was a year or two and he was able to foster personal friendship with President Trump. And even if there is a new President, I am not saying that there will be, but in case there is a new President in the United States in the person of Senator Biden, I am confident that the President can also develop close personal friendship with Mr Biden. May the best man win as of now,” Roque said.
Professor Dindo Manhit of think tank Stratbase ADR Institute has previously said that a win for Biden could spell “challenging times” for the Duterte government, noting that his administration could be “more aggressive” in addressing the human rights situation in the Philippines.
Duterte and his allies often blast foreigners who appear to meddle with the country’s domestic affairs when they seek to hold him accountable over alleged human rights abuses, particularly in his anti-narcotics campaign which has so far killed over 5,000 drug suspects. Human rights groups claim the actual number is thrice that figure.
“If you would look at details of the core platform of Biden, there might be challenging times for the president,” Manhit said in a television interview Tuesday night. “They’re proud of their belief that they need to go back to the core of the Democratic Party which is how they can lead in the world.”
Duterte has maintained a cordial relationship with Trump, even if he sought closer ties with China and Russia. As early as February, Duterte urged US citizens with Filipino links to vote for Trump.
Results of America’s elections are expected to be known in the Philippines by noon of 4 November.