FORMER President Joseph “Erap” Estrada backed President Rodrigo Duterte’s decision to separate foreign policy from the United States, saying it is high time the US government be stopped from its meddling in the country’s internal affairs.
But the 79-year-old Estrada, who was ousted from office in 2001, feared that Duterte’s unpopular pronouncements might have severe consequences, such as his possible removal from office similar to what he had experienced in 2001.
The former leader recalled that when he was president, the US government would always try to coax him into doing what they want, like when US Defense Secretary William Cohen wrote him demanding a stop to Estrada’s “all-out war” against the Moro Islamic Liberation Front which was believed to be behind several terror attacks.
“They meddled in my fight with the MILF. They stopped me,” said Estrada, who is now on his second term as mayor of Manila.
“When they suddenly removed me, they neglected the MILF which continued in their bombings,” he pointed out.
“Just because the US is helping us [through official aid] that does not mean they can meddle in our internal problems. We are a sovereign country. We have our own Constitution,” Estrada said.
“President Duterte’s action is right. Why are they meddling?” he added, referring to the US.
Asked if he supports Duterte’s move to realign the Philippines with China, Estrada replied: “Yes. Because China doesn’t meddle with us, with our independence.”
Estrada said he understands where Duterte is coming from when he announced the country’s “separation” from the US. “I feel what President Duterte is feeling.”
He stressed it was a difficult decision for the President, one that might expose him to political risks such as the US moving to oust him from office. “That is my fear because they did that to me,” Estrada said.