MANILA — President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines threated on Thursday to expel the ambassadors representing the European Union, suggesting that he would give them 24 hours to leave his country.
“You think that we are a bunch of morons here,” Mr. Duterte said in a expletive-laden speech at the presidential palace. “Because we can have the diplomatic channel cut tomorrow. You leave my country in 24 hours. All. All of you.”
His remarks appeared to be a reaction to recent criticism of the country’s war on drugs, in which thousands of people have been killed by the police.
A director of Human Rights Watch suggested that the Philippines should be removed from the United Nations’ top human rights body. A group including European lawmakers issued a statement after a visit to the country last week suggesting that the European Union might tighten its terms of trade with the Philippines for human rights reasons.
The European Union said in a statement issued by its delegation in Manila that the lawmakers’ visit had been a private trip organized by the Progressive Alliance — a group that is critical of the Duterte government — not an official mission.
“The statements made by the Progressive Alliance during its visit to the Philippines were made solely on behalf of the Progressive Alliance and do not represent the position of the European Union,” the statement said.
Mr. Duterte is known for off-the-cuff speechmaking, and it was not immediately clear on Thursday if his threats were serious or simply bluster.
He said that, as president, he alone controlled the nation’s foreign policy, and that he could cut ties with any country at any time.
“The conduct of external affairs of this country is not in Congress. It’s not in the Supreme Court. It is the presidency in the great separation of powers,” he said. “It is solely the privilege of the executive department.”
The European Union said its relationship with the Philippines “continues to operate and function normally.”
Robespierre Bolivar, a spokesman for the Philippine Foreign Affairs Department, said that as of Thursday evening, the department “has not received any instructions on the matter.”
The president’s comments came just weeks before the country is set to host a meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations attended by several world leaders, including President Trump.
The Philippines is also currently negotiating its trade agreement with the European Union. The country now receives preferential treatment, allowing more than 6,200 products to enter the bloc duty free.
Mr. Duterte said that if trade with Europe were affected, the Philippines would increase trade with China and Russia.
Richard Javad Heydarian, a professor of political science at De La Salle University in Manila, said Mr. Duterte’s tirade was a “knee-jerk reaction rather than an actual policy.”
“Relations are tense, but far from broken,” Professor Heydarian said.
Ernesto Abella, a spokesman for the president, said in a statement that the members of the Progressive Alliance mission had falsely represented themselves as acting on behalf of the European Union.
He added that Mr. Duterte’s remarks should be understood in the context of the president resisting “undue interference in our domestic affairs.”
Thursday’s speech came one day after Mr. Duterte said he would strip the national police of its lead role in the war on drugs. That announcement followed a recent poll that showed Mr. Duterte’s popularity had declined after the recent deaths of three teenagers.