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Filipino protesters burn US flag

Published: October 22, 2016, 11:16 am

    Manila, Philippines

    Protesting Filipinos burned a mock US flag on Friday outside the presidential palace. President Rodrigo Duterte was called to punish police officers for brutally dispersing an anti-US rally by ramming a van into demonstrators.

    Crowds carrying placards demanding “US troops out now” marched to the presidential palace in Manila to condemn the violent police action.

    Police say the protesters had no permission to hold the rally and they “attacked officers”. Nine officers have been fired since the incident, including the van driver, while a police investigation is on-going.

    The driver, Franklin Kho, told reporters he did not deliberately hit the protesters but was trying to escape the angry crowd. Videos of the van hitting demonstrators like bowling pins have gone viral.

    Wednesday’s protesters were demanding an end to the presence of US troops stationed in the Philippines and support for Duterte’s new foreign policy independent from the country’s longtime treaty ally, the United States.

    The new direction means an end to President Barack Obama’s pivot to Asia. The American plan was to focus diplomatic and military assets in East Asia to contain a rising China, and one of the reasons Obama said he was shrinking American presence in the Middle East.

    On Thursday, the president of the Philippines, Duterte, announced to an audience at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing a “separation” with the US “America has lost now”, he said. “And maybe I will also go to Russia to talk to Putin and tell him that there are three of us against the world: China, Philippines and Russia. It’s the only way.”

    Duterte has also waged war against his nation’s drug users and drug dealers, killing thousands.

    Because the Philippines has been a key US ally since the beginning of the cold war, the Obama administration invested heavily in the country as part of its pivot to Asia. In 2014 the two countries signed an enhanced defense cooperation agreement.

    When the Philippines brought a case against China at the Hague over China’s artificial islands in its territorial waters, the US supported the Philippines diplomatically and in July, the Hague’s Permanent Court of Arbitration ruled in favor of the Philippines.

    In a about-face, Duterte has now signed a series of trade agreements worth $13.5 billion, along with a promise to continue bilateral negotiations over the South China Sea, irking the Americans.

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