Duterte says a strongman rule is neither a military’s buddy nor a constitution’s ward
IN a speech that perhaps could embolden more businesses to invest in the Philippines, President Rodrigo Duterte has ruled out anyone becoming a dictator in the country, saying it’s against the constitution as well as citing the military’s aversion toward it. “Nobody, but nobody can be a dictator in this country because the military will not allow it,” he said Friday night, Feb. 9, at The Manila Times’ “7th Business Forum,” held in Davao City’s Marco Polo Hotel. “It’s also not allowed in the constitution.”
Coming in three hours late as he had to deal with some “intervening events” earlier in the day, such as the case of an overseas Filipino maid whose body was found in a freezer in Kuwait, the President was again inflammatory in his delivery, stressing, for instance, that the ICC, or International Criminal Court, has no jurisdiction over him. “Do not go into that adventure,” he said, apparently referring to Fatou Bensouda, the ICC prosecutor who, a day earlier, announced a preliminary inquiry into Duterte’s alleged crimes against humanity. “You will get your comeuppance.”
During the day, world-class economists and other speakers from the various business sectors took turns praising the Duterte administration’s sound economic policy, which, they said, could sustain growth over the years ahead, despite some challenges [see main story]. Dubbed “The Philippine Economic Outlook for 2018,” with the theme “Build, Consume, Grow: Gaining Momentum for an Economy to Soar,” this was The Times’ second forum held outside of Metro Manila. Last year’s forum was also held in Davao City.
Using expletives intermittently, Duterte again threatened to withdraw the Philippines’ membership with the ICC, an intergovernmental organization based in The Hague and is the world’s sole war crimes tribunal. While he acknowledged that a previous administration had ratified the treaty that formally established the ICC in 2002, Duterte claimed a technicality has made it not legally binding locally. He also twitted the critics of his war against illegal drugs, saying that EJK, or extrajudicial killing, “is not illegal in itself.” He asked, “What do you mean by EJK?” And since there is no definition of EJK anywhere, “so how can you now accuse me of a crime?” He said, “I will preserve the Republic of the Philippines and protect the Filipino people.” And to those who would try to block his way, he warned, “I will kill you.”
Saying he is proud of his campaign against criminality, he noted that in his home city of Davao, for instance, there’s not much methamphetamine anymore. Locally known as “shabu,” methamphetamine is a recreational drug that can stimulate strongly a user’s central nervous system. He also said there’s not much kidnapping anymore in the city. “Patay na eh (It’s because they’re dead),” he said in jest, perhaps referring to drug addicts and criminals.
Police have said they have killed almost 4,000 drug suspects in their crackdown on the use of shabu. Human rights advocates, however, believed the death toll is as high as 12,000.
Done to help prosecutors determine if there is enough evidence of crimes committed that fall into its jurisdiction—like when national courts are unwilling or unable to prosecute criminals—the ICC’s preliminary investigation could become a full-blown probe that might eventually lead to charges. The President’s spokesperson, Harry Roque, expressed confidence that the investigation would not lead to Duterte’s prosecution, just like the 2007 probe done by a United Nations special rapporteur. The UN probe was on Duterte’s alleged role in 1,069 alleged death-squad killings while he was mayor of Davao City.
Switching abruptly from one issue to another, Duterte again defended his decision to have the late former strongman, Ferdinand Marcos, buried at the LNMB, or Libingan ng mga Bayani (Heroes’ Cemetery), at the Fort Bonifacio, in Taguig City’s Brgy. Western Bicutan. “He was a soldier—you cannot deny that,” he said of Marcos, who hailed from the province of Ilocos Norte and was buried in November 2016 after a Supreme Court ruling, which emanated from petitions filed denying his alleged war exploits and citing his being a dictator as unworthy of a hero’s burial. “Let the Ilokanos hug their hero, too. We all have our own heroes.”
Poking fun of his arch-critic, Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV, who has repeatedly alleged that Duterte and his daughter, Sara, mayor of Davao City, had undeclared wealth, the President’s incendiary speech earned chuckles from the audience every now and then. He again stressed that he has not had more than P40 million in his bank accounts at any given time. He said Trillanes is supposed to be a better person, given that he graduated from the elite Philippine Military Academy (PMA). “Pero may nakalusot na buang (But someone unhinged was able to survive it),” he said, bringing the crowd in a hushed laughter.
The portion of his speech that got the most chuckles and gibberish reactions from the audience, however, was on criticisms of his being a womanizer. Duterte said he couldn’t get it why someone would take it against him that he has romantic dalliances with a number of women. “So what? It’s biology,” he said angrily. “Without biology, what? What are you gonna do with your pr*ck? Flatten it?”
PHOTOS BY RUSSELL PALMA