The Irrawaddy

Philippines’ Duterte Says Trump Made Him Feel ‘Like a Saint’ 

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte speaks in Quezon city, Metro Manila, December 7, 2016. (photo: REUTERS / Erik De Castro)

MANILA — Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said Wednesday he felt “like a saint” after his phone conversation last week with US President-elect Donald Trump, who he said praised him for “doing great” in his deadly campaign against illegal drugs.

He said in a speech that Trump told him not to worry about Americans criticizing him, saying “you are doing good, go ahead.”

Trump invited him for coffee if he visits Washington or New York, and told him he wanted to hear how Duterte deals with the media, his critics, and the public, the Philippine president said.

“Oh President Duterte, we should fix our bad relations … You’re doing great,” he quoted Trump as saying. “So now, if you listen to Trump talk to me, I have become like a saint.”

Duterte called to congratulate Trump late Friday.

In earlier comments about the phone call, Duterte said Trump wished that his crackdown on illegal drugs would succeed, and said he assured the U.S. president-elect the Philippines would maintain its ties with America — a departure from Duterte’s hostility toward the Obama administration.

Duterte has lashed out at President Barack Obama, the State Department, EU, UN officials, and human rights groups for raising concerns over his drug crackdown, which has left more than 4,000 suspected drug dealers and users dead.

Obama canceled what could have been his first formal meeting with Duterte at an Asian summit in Laos in September after Duterte unleashed an expletive-laden warning for the US leader not to lecture him on human rights. In one speech, Duterte told Obama to “go to hell.”