It has become an almost daily tradition to flip through the news looking for the latest insult by Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte hurled at US president Barack Obama.
Just this past Tuesday, Duterte outlined his disappointments with the US in his latest speech aimed at Obama whom he called “son of a bitch” several weeks ago, saying that “instead of helping us, the first to criticize is this State Department, so you can go to hell, Mr. Obama, you can go to hell,”
Fast forward to today when Duterte issued his latest verbal assault on the lame duck president, declaring he would not bow to foreign pressure over his anti-drug campaign, while his Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay declared that the US “has failed us.”
“I do not expect the human rights [groups], I do not expect Obama, I do not expect the EU to understand me,” said Duterte in a speech on Thursday. “Do not understand me. And if you think it’s high time for you guys to withdraw your assistance, go ahead. We will not beg for it.”
Duterte showing off a Glock 30
As usual, Duterte’s remark was made in response to criticism by the US and EU of his war on drugs, which has led to over 3,600 deaths at the hands of police, drug gangs, and vigilantes, according to the latest figures from the Philippine National Police. US politicians such as Senator Patrick Leahy, suggested cutting off aid to the Philippines in September, but Duterte maintains that foreigners simply do not understand the scale of the drug problem in his country.
“You will never understand the pain that we are suffering,” he said. “Go away, bring your money somewhere else. We will survive as a nation. There will always be a day for reckoning.”
At the same time, Reuters reported that Duterte’s foreign secretary, Perfecto Yasay, who has at times tried to downplay his boss’s comments, released a statement on Facebook titled “America has failed us” in which he says that, while there are many “countless things that we will be forever grateful to America for,” the US has never fully respected Philippine independence.“
“After proclaiming in July 4, 1946 that the Filipinos had been adequately trained for self-determination and governance, the United States held on to invisible chains that reined us in towards dependency and submission as little brown brothers not capable of true independence and freedom,” the FM said in the statement. The United States “give us the assurance” that it will come to the Philippines’ defense if its sovereignty is threatened, and that is why Duterte has set about “realigning our independent foreign policy,” the statement added.
American officials, for their part, have tried to shrug off Duterte’s outbursts. A State Department official told the LA Times, “we are not going to respond to every little thing said in Tagalog somewhere in the Philippines.” But one thing is clear: when it comes to the outspoken president’s domestic popularity, it has never been higher.
As France24 reports, Duterte’s popularity has soared during his first three months in office, an independent survey showed Thursday, in an apparent endorsement by Filipinos of his brutal war on crime, or perhaps his openly outspoken ways which have challenged and insulted everyone from Obama, to the EU, to the Pope. Some 76 percent of Filipinos polled by Social Weather Stations said they were “satisfied” with Duterte’s performance, with just 11 percent reporting being “dissatisfied” and the rest undecided. The Manila-based polling group surveyed 1,200 adults nationwide from September 24-27, asking them simply about Duterte’s performance as president without reference to the drug war.
Duterte, a provincial politician, stormed to victory largely on his pledge to eradicate crime in six months. He promised that tens of thousands of people would be killed in his crime crackdown, and that he would pardon himself and police if they were charged with mass murder.
Since taking office on June 30, Duterte has continued his threats and incitements to kill, while unleashing abusive tirades at his critics. Last week he said he would be “happy to slaughter” three million drug addicts, as he likened his crime war to Nazi leader Adolf Hitler’s efforts to exterminate Jews. Following an international outcry, Duterte apologised to Jewish people for his Hitler reference but insisted he was “emphatic” in his desire to kill all drug addicts.
So far his policies seems to be effective and certainly are popular.
According to BusinessWorld, which published the Social Weather Stations survey, only one other president has enjoyed higher popularity ratings three months into their presidency since democracy was restored in 1986 following the fall of dictator Ferdinand Marcos. That president was Fidel Ramos, who ruled from 1992-1998, who is one of Duterte’s chief allies. Under the constitution that was re-written post-Marcos, presidents are only allowed to serve a single term of six years.