PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte has really gone a long way since the days that he was mayor of Davao City. Barely four months in Malacañang, he has already created waves in Southeast Asia and, starting today, in China.
His state visit to China is a most propitious one, with the easing of tension in the West Philippine Sea/South China Sea and revitalization of Philippine-Chinese relations expected to be the most immediate benefits.
The renewed friendship with China appears to be the start of the Duterte administration’s new foreign policy of distancing itself from the United States and other countries that have criticized his bloody war against illegal drugs. Don’t criticize how he wages this war and you’ll be in his good graces. Criticize it and he’ll forget decades of friendship.
The official rationale for this pivot to China and away from the US is the desire to blaze an independent foreign policy. The President said, to the glee of his millions of rabid followers, that the Philippines can survive without foreign aid.
When he returns from China, he’ll be enumerating the billions of dollars that China will have pledged to give to the Philippines in investments, loans and other forms of assistance. Aren’t we glad to have a President who wants Filipinos to survive without seeking help from foreigners?
That President Duterte has gone a long way since his days as Davao City mayor is also seen in his willingness to take on anybody or any organization that dares criticize him. He once said that he didn’t do so well in college. Now, he is even inviting the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Summary Executions and the International Criminal Court to come to the Philippines and investigate the alleged extra-judicial killings (EJK) of suspected drug users and pushers.
The invitation comes with a condition: that he be allowed to cross-examine them after their investigation. He expressed confidence that with his years as prosecutor, he could embarrass anyone who asserts that there is EJK in the country. Indeed, the Philippines is most fortunate to have a President brainy enough to debate with UN and International Criminal Court officials. But what if they reject his arguments? Well, he can always call them names.
No doubt, the President’s confidence in tangling with world leaders is bolstered by the strong support he gets in his home court — 64% according to the Social Weather Stations, 91% according to Pulse Asia, and 97% according to a program on TV5. I prefer to use 97%. That’s the survey cited by Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre — and Aguirre said he can spot a liar within 10 minutes.
Ping Lacson and the ‘hawi boys’
A recent news report said Sen. Ping Lacson was a victim of the “hawi boys” of a government official in a hurry to attend a Senate committee hearing. The report was sketchy. However, it reminds me of a similar incident involving Senator Ping 12 years ago.
It was June 4, 2004 at about 9:35 a.m. Senator Ping was at the foot of the Tramo overpass in Pasay City, when his car and those of others were shunted to the side by the motorcycle escorts of General Alexander Yano who was in a convoy of three cars, and with siren blaring.
General Yano, who had just been named AFP chief o staff, was rushing to attend his confirmation hearing by the Commission on Appointments — and Ping was a member.
At the hearing, Ping gave Yano an earful: “This will not cost you your confirmation but I had the opportunity of wearing in 1999 the four stars you are about to wear. I was probably more powerful than you are now but I was not allowing my escorts to cut vehicles along the way unless extremely necessary.”
He remarked that people detest the arrogance and high-handedness of officials and their escorts who act as if they’re the king of the road, especially when traffic is heavy.
This anecdote reveals the kind of leader Senator Ping is. It took place 12 years ago but I’m sure he still remains sensitive to the feelings of others, especially the ordinary citizen.
Oh yes, I must add that he has the backbone to voice out the dictates of his conscience and will not be a “yes” man to anybody.
• Why is it that the convicts who testified before the House Committee on Justice were not wearing the standard orange prison garb?
This made it difficult for spectators to distinguish them from congressmen who weren’t in business suits. Apparel aside, congressmen were identifiable by their hysterics and histrionics before the TV camera.
•From Sen. Kiko Pangilinan, after reading that 4,000 drug addicts and users had surrendered in Davao City under Operation “Tokhang.”
“If the Davao City anti-illegal drugs campaign did not succeed in stamping out and eliminating pushers and addicts under President Duterte’s 24-year stint as mayor, what makes us think that the national campaign against illegal drugs will succeed in six months, extended by another six months?