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Politics

'Leave us': Duterte reacts to S&P's credit-rating outlook

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Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, at a press conference in Davao on Sept. 18, has lashed out at critics of his anti-drug campaign.   © Reuters

MANILA -- President Rodrigo Duterte blasted credit-rating agencies and international organizations on Thursday after Standard & Poor's warned of a downgrade if the Philippines' recent economic gains are reversed.

In an invective-laden speech, Duterte lashed out at his critics, including a Philippine senator, the U.S., the European Union and the United Nations for criticizing his war against drugs which has killed more than 3,000 suspected drug users and peddlers since Duterte took office on June 30.

"Do not keep on complaining about my mouth, because my mouth is not the problem. It cannot bring down a country, but it can erase a generation of right-thinking Filipinos," Duterte said.

Duterte's tongue-lashing expanded to credit-ratings agencies a day after S&P said the rise in extrajudicial killings could undermine the country's credit scores, due to "rising uncertainties surrounding the stability, predictability, and accountability of its new government."

The Philippines earned its first investment-grade credit score in 2013 as a result of governance and fiscal reforms.

S&P on Wednesday kept the Philippines' credit rating at BBB, a notch above its lowest investment-grade rating. But S&P noted that a credit upgrade is unlikely in the next two years unless fiscal reforms lift investment and growth prospects, and policy pronouncements become clearer.

"We may lower that rating if, under the new administration, the reform agenda stalls or if there is a reversal of the recent gains in the Philippines' fiscal or external positions," S&P said.

Reacting to S&P's credit action, Duterte said: "I would say to the ratings [agencies] in business and the economy, so be it. Leave us. Then we will start on our own."

Duterte has developed a 10-point agenda focused on sustaining the Philippines' economic growth through infrastructure spending, macroeconomic management, boosting the agricultural sector and improving the business climate.

However, international attention on his war against suspected drug criminals has overshadowed governance reforms and his pursuit for peace to boost growth in the countryside.

Duterte has frequently berated foreign governments and agencies that have criticized him for his controversial anti-drug crackdown. He or officials in his cabinet often have later clarified his remarks.

For instance, Duterte earlier this month told the U.S. to pull out its military forces in the southern Philippines, saying their continued presence is a stumbling block to peace in on the island of Mindanao. A day later, his spokesperson said Duterte's remarks should not be interpreted as a policy statement.

Duterte has also threatened to leave the U.N. for criticizing his war against drugs, but diplomats were quick to clarify the Philippines has no intention to quit the international body.

On Thursday, Duterte said he would write to the U.N. High Commissioner on Human Rights, formally inviting international experts to independently probe extrajudicial killings in the Philippines, as long as he will be allowed to scrutinize and question them.

Duterte's executive secretary, Salvador Medialdea, also barred cabinet officials from speaking on behalf of the president unless the communications team gives the go-ahead.

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