Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has given a wide ranging speech on current issues ranging from the internal peace process in the country, to the war on the narco culture and foreign policy. One of the highlights of his speech was summarising America’s relationship with The Philippines and indeed the wider world. While many have simplistically called Duterte “anti-American”, in reality, Duterte demands from the United States the same thing that any sovereign nation demands of another, regardless of its size. Duterte demands respect, consistency, realism and cooperation on issues of mutual interest when such things can be agreed.
During his statements, Duterte criticised the former US President Barack Obama as well as current members of the US Congress who wise not to sell weapons to a “human rights violator” in spite of their own ignorance regarding the drug problem in the US which will likely require an even stronger response than that which Duterte has employed against the drug problem in The Philippines. Pointing out that unlike Obama, who Duterte called a “jerk” and the US Congress, Donald Trump has praised Duterte’s solid stance against narco culture, he rhetorically asked,
“So Americans, what values are you trying to impose on us? The values of Obama, the values of Trump, or your own national stupidity?”
Duterte then issued a prophet statement, especially considering that the drug problem in the US has become so out of control that Donald Trump has proposed making drug dealing a criminal offence that would carry the sentence of death. Turning directly to America’s drug problems Duterte said,
“Someday, remember this. One day to your horror (you will realise), your problem is 100 times more serious than what we have”.
Put another way – those who live in glass houses should not throw stones. Duterte recalled how even before becoming mayor of Davao, he realised that the city was “already boiling” and that something must be done before a point of no return was reached. Far from thinking the US will ever settle down in its hyperbolic treatment of The Philippines, he warned,
“At least, if ever my airplane explodes, or if some roadside bomb explodes, maybe you can ask the CIA”.
Continuing on the theme of US hypocrisy, Duterte affirmed that it is his goal for The Philippines to remain geopolitically neutral in all major conflicts. A similar statement was issued by the Foreign Minister of Pakistan Khawaja Muhammad Asif, who said that his country will remain neutral in the ‘new Cold War’.
Instead of being trapped into foreign alliances, Duterte said that he seeks respectful assistance in the fight to secure his country among all respectful partners. To this effect, he praised both Russia and China who have not asked for any money for the weapons they have sent to The Philippines. In particular, Duterte told the story of his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin that had to be cut short when news came in that the Daesh (ISIS) aligned Maute Group had begun their siege of Marawi in May of 2017. Duterte then recalled having to give the order to place Mindinao under martial law while still in Moscow, a move which ultimately was successful in bringing about the defeat of the Maute Group in Marawi.
Turning to the wider issue of peace, Duterte stated that now is the time to make an appropriate deal with both the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the communist New People’s Army (NPA). However, he stated that according to the terms of any peace accord, under no circumstances can any groups maintain their own police and military forces as this violates the national constitution. Furthermore, Duterte said that as President, it would be a violation of his own duties to grant any group the right to its own army or police force as the constitution only allows for the nation to create such forces.
President Duterte has yet again shown that he understands the intricacies of peace and security while also having a firm grasp on the matters that are necessary to tackle in order to create a safer and more prosperous nation. During his speech he stated that all he does as President is designed to avert struggles for the young generation and the generation after that so that they can inherent a better country than the one he was born into.
This is the kind of leadership necessary to help develop The Philippines into one of the great economies and societies in the most rapidly growing region in the world. Duterte has the plan and the fortitude to execute it without hesitation. This is why he remains popular at home and loved by millions abroad.