US congratulates Philippines' Marcos but pledges to promote rights

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Philippine President-elect Ferdinand Marcos Jr greets supporters as his campaign heaquarters in Manila (AFP/Ted ALJIBE) (Ted ALJIBE)
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The United States said Wednesday it will seek close security ties with the Philippines under its next president, the son of late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, but made clear it would raise human rights.

In a phone call, US President Joe Biden congratulated Ferdinand Marcos Jr on his recent election win, the White House said late Wednesday Washington time.

"President Biden underscored that he looks forward to working with the President-elect to continue strengthening the US-Philippine Alliance, while expanding bilateral cooperation on a wide range of issues," the White House statement said, listing the pandemic, climate change, economic growth and "respect for human rights."

In a congratulatory message earlier in the day, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that "we look forward to working with President-elect Marcos to strengthen the enduring alliance between the United States and the Philippines."

"As friends, partners and allies, we will continue to collaborate closely with the Philippines to promote respect for human rights and to advance a free and open, connected, prosperous, secure and resilient Indo-Pacific region," Blinken said.

The top White House official on Asia, Kurt Campbell, acknowledged there "are some historical considerations" that initially may cause "some challenges in the communication."

"But obviously (the) Philippines plays such a critical, important role and we will seek to continue close partnership in the security realm and increasing trade and economic ties," Campbell said.

"Our expectation is we'll be able to continue to work closely," he said at the US Institute of Peace.

Marcos senior and his first lady, Imelda, were notorious for their graft and high-flying lifestyle in a country marked by rampant poverty.

After ruling the former US colony for two decades with support from the United States, which saw him as a Cold War ally, Marcos went into exile in Hawaii in the face of mass protests and with the nudging of Washington in 1986.

The younger Marcos, nicknamed "Bongbong," will succeed President Rodrigo Duterte, who has waged a brutal war on drugs that rights groups say has killed tens of thousands.

Campbell, not mentioning human rights, said that "relations under President Duterte really rebounded towards the end, at least at the strategic level."

After taking office in 2016, Duterte used profanity to denounce Barack Obama after the then-US president raised rights concerns.

But Duterte enjoyed vocal support from Obama's successor Donald Trump and the United States across administrations has backed the Philippines in maritime disputes with China.

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