US plot to unseat Duterte? 'Absurd,' says envoy

MANILA, Philippines – Outgoing US ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg dismissed as "absurd" suggestions that the superpower will plot to oust President Rodrigo Duterte because of his hostility toward the US.

Goldberg on Monday, October 24, was asked to comment on a statement issued by former Philippine President Joseph Estrada who said he fears that the US would oust Duterte "like what they did to me."

Estrada claimed the US was behind his ouster in 2001 when various civil society, church, and youth groups gathered on the country's main highway, EDSA, to protest allegations he had amassed ill-gotten wealth. Estrada was forced to step down and replaced by his vice president then, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who put him in jail on plunder charges. Ms Arroyo however pardoned him on October 25, 2007, the same year he was convicted and detained. (READ: Fast facts: Presidential pardons)

"'Yun ang pangamba ko. Sa akin nga ginawa e (That is my fear. It's what they did to me.)," Estrada was quoted saying, in reference to a possible US plot against Duterte.

Asked to comment, Goldberg said: "I saw that [story]. I think it is absurd."

"The US is a great friend of the Philippines, respects the democracy of the Philippines, and the process that has happened to elect the president. These are fundamental core beliefs of the US and any statement that we would in any way be involved in such a thing is not right," said Goldberg.

Goldberg is ending his tour of duty in the Philippines this week, and is set to be replaced by Ambassador Sung Kim.

Duterte himself has suggested that the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) is plotting to oust him. 

The US has been the subject Duterte's sustained tirades. He said he will chart a foreign policy that is independent of the US and and will forge closer ties with China. (READ: Duterte rhetoric causes 'head-scratching' in US – envoy)

It is a deviation from the foreign policy of Duterte's predecessor, President Benigno Aquino III, who sought the assistance of the US to deter China's aggressiveness in the West Philippine Sea. –