TL;DR – Many love him, others revile him.
Mr Rodrigo Duterte, the President of Philippines, is a very colourful character. Many love him, others revile him. It’s too early to tell if Philippines will grow and prosper with him as President (he was only elected in May 2016). But in his short time as President, the brazen things he has been saying has drawn him much attention. Singapore was one of the “victims” of his insults. But he had promised to be on “best behaviour” while he’s in Singapore.
Yes, President Duterte is here in Singapore on a short two-day visit (15th to 16th Dec) and he has already met with our President Tony Tan and also Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong today. News of his visit appears to have gained quite some interest locally and social shares of news about his visit have been climbing.
And it does look like President Duterte intends to keep his promise about being on “best behaviour”:
For now… But he may still surprise (or maybe it won’t be a surprise?) us yet. After all, Mr Duterte did say some really… interesting… things. Such as the following:
“Son of a whore, I’ll curse you at that forum. Don’t do anything like that to me.”
That was the message Mr Duterte supposedly had for President Obama after the USA criticised Mr Duterte for the extra-judicial killings.
And it seems that Mr Duterte isn’t all to impressed with the new POTUS either. When he was compared to Donald Trump, President Duterte said:
“He is a bigot and I am not.”
Mr Duterte’s verbal tirades aren’t reserved for political leaders. Even the Pope isn’t spared. When Pope Francis visited the predominantly Catholic Philippines in 2015, it caused President Duterte to be stuck in a traffic jam. That led to Mr Duterte saying this:
“I wanted to call him: ‘Pope, son of a whore, go home. Do not visit us again.’”
If he dared to say such things about the Pope, it’s only to be expected that he would say some pretty wild things to fellow Filipinos. Like what he said to Maria Lourdes Sereno, the chief justice of the Supreme Court of the Philippines:
“Please don’t order me around. … Or would you rather that I declare martial law?”
He reserved some of the toughest words for Filipino drug dealers. While running for president, Mr. Duterte, who had been mayor of Davao City and employed vigilante militias there, promised a similar national strategy against drug dealers. He warned:
“You drug pushers, hold-up men and do-nothings, you better go out. Because I’d kill you.”
And he made good his threat. In fact, he seemed determined to do even more:
“Hitler massacred three million Jews. Now, there is three million drug addicts. I’d be happy to slaughter them.”
Mr Duterte’s tough talk has won him many supporters amongst Filipinos. Many Filipinos are proud that they have a president who’s willing and daring enough to stand up to the super powers of the world. No doubt, many were especially thrilled when Mr Duterte promised to ride alone to an airport built on land reclaimed around an island in the disputed South China Sea, and plant a Filipino flag:
“I will ride a jet ski while bringing the Philippine flag. This is ours. Do what you want with me.”
But Mr Duterte seemed to have forgotten what he had said back in April when he visited China in October. Yes, we’re talking about all in the same year of 2016. His spokesman said that “China is not only a friend. China is a big brother.” And suddenly, Mr Duterte was saying, “Your fish is my fish.”
That about-turn certainly helped placate China. Mr Duterte brought home $24 billion worth of funding and investment pledges from that four-day visit to China. Not bad! Just give up a few ‘lousy islands and reefs’ in the South China Sea and get a windfall! So win-win.
We wonder if Mr Duterte’s visit to Singapore will also be as mutually beneficial as his visit to China was.