Duterte ratchets down his language and rhetoric



First read
A friend from India wrote me and offered this potentially helpful comment:

“I wonder if Duterte is becoming progressively blinded by his popularity rating; or if he is suffering from a medical condition. A doctor practicing Ayurveda – the Indian medical science which is the world’s oldest – tells me that Duterte’s lack of control over his tongue is, indeed, a medical problem that can be treated if he is only willing.”

I found his note most interesting, so I wrote back to say that I will pass on his medical diagnosis to some people in Malacanang. But I said that we should probably wait until Mr. Duterte returns home from his visit to Beijing, for a very sound reason.

Based on reports, China is known to successfully muzzle state guests on unwanted subjects and to cure their penchant to talk loosely.

Beijing’s strict control of official conversations has been much pronounced in China’s dealings with top American officials. To which presumably Washington accedes.

New rule for South China Sea talks     
In an intriguing article last July, the Washington Post reported that US national security adviser Susan Rice went to Beijing for discussions about the South China Sea, and China’s deepening territorial dispute with Washington‘s most important Southeast Asian allies.

But strangely, Ms. Rice did not talk about the South China Sea — at least not publicly – during her visit.

Emily Rauhala wryly entitled her report: “The first new rule for South China Sea talks: Don’t talk about the South China Sea.”

The substantive part of the Post report said: “The diplomatic sidestep was a clear sign of just how sensitive the standoff has become. For Beijing’s leaders, control of the South China Sea is a critical show of resolve. For the United States and its Asian allies, it marks a test of how much they can push back against China’s growing military and regional ambitions.

“In the highest-level US visit since an international tribunal issued a ruling on July 12, invalidating China’s expansive maritime claims, Rice met with President Xi Jinping, State Councilor Yang Jiechi and other senior officials. She alluded to “issues and challenges” but avoided actual references to the long-simmering conflict.

“In her opening remarks before her talk with Xi, Rice played up interdependence and called the US-China relationship “the most consequential in the world today.”

“Xi in turn told Rice that China remains “strongly committed” to building good relations based upon the ideas of “no conflict, no confrontation, mutual respect and win-win cooperation.”

The most pointed — if indirect — reference to the dispute during the Rice visit came in an earlier meeting between Rice and Fan Changlong, a top Chinese general.

“We should be honest with ourselves that deep down in this relationship we’re still faced with obstacles and challenges,” Fan told Rice.

`“If we do not properly handle these factors, it will very likely disturb and undermine this steady momentum of our military-to-military relationship,” he said.

Bullying Asean into silence
China has also muzzled opinion on the arbitral ruling in the councils of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean).

During Secretary of State John F. Kerry’s trip to Laos, where he met with Southeast Asian leaders and China’s foreign minister to begin delicate discussions about how to move forward after the Hague ruling, the Asean issued an innocuous statement that carefully avoided mention of the ruling.

Why is China so sensitive about the subject?

First, the Permanent Court of Arbitration, based in The Hague, ruled that there is no legal or historical basis for China’s claims to a vast swath of the South China Sea.

Second, the tribunal also ruled that China had violated the Philippines’ sovereign rights by constructing artificial islands and had caused “permanent irreparable harm to the coral reef ecosystem.”

The US has tried to find a way to support its Southeast Asian allies, particularly the Philippines, without completely alienating Beijing.

“It is trying to calm things down while at the same time encouraging support for the arbitration ruling,” says Jay L. Batongbacal, director of the University of the Philippines Institute of Maritime Affairs and Law of the Sea.

The Chinese response to the ruling has so far been a mix of scathing rhetoric and mostly symbolic moves, such as sending civilian aircraft to new airports in the South China Sea.

On the sidelines of the recent Asean summit, China reportedly told the Philippines that Beijing was ready to negotiate if Manila ignored the ruling, an offer which the Philippine foreign minister roundly rejected.

No bartering away of PH territory
It is in this context that President Duterte will visit China, starting today.

Speculation has been rife in the media that Beijing has exacted unconscionable concessions from Manila for the visit to take place, and that our government has framed its conditions in terms of pieces of silver.

One analyst has suggested that our government has frittered away all our leverage in negotiations on the South China Sea and has turned the talks into a transactional exercise. I have opined in an earlier column that the Duterte visit resembles Neville Chamberlain’s visit to Munich in 1938: a journey of appeasement. Supreme Court justice Antonio Carpio has warned that Mr. Duterte could face impeachment if he “concedes Philippine sovereignty over Scarborough Shoal to China.”

In defense, President Duterte vowed on Sunday he will not “barter” away territory and economic rights during his visit to Beijing.

Far from being silenced on the subject, DU30 said he would raise the arbitral ruling with President Xi Jinping.

“The international tribunal’s decision will be taken up, but there will be no hard impositions,” he said.

Significantly, the President also said he agreed with Justice Carpio’s opinion that he could be impeached and removed from office if he gave away Scarborough Shoal.

“He is correct,” he said. “It’s an impeachable offense.”

Ultra-sensitive about the drug war     
This is a change of tone and diction in Mr. Duterte that we rarely see. In the face of criticism, this time he did not burst into expletives and has not called his critics names; he seems more willing to concede that he could be wrong.

But one should note that Du30’s foulest outbursts have usually been triggered by criticisms of his war on drugs, especially by charges of human rights violations.

If China is ultra-sensitive about the arbitral ruling, Duterte is ultra-sensitive about his drug war.

With the drug war still very much with us and UN officials visiting soon, it may be prudent for DU30 to discreetly undergo treatment by Ayurvedic medicine for his foul mouth.



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  1. Duterte is a narcissist and a schizophrenic paranoid. He should submit himself to a shrink to get treated. And hie should get some schooling on how to act civilized and presidential.

  2. It is amusing to see that an Indian individual residing in a place almost halfway around the world from the Philippines will profess a supposed diagnosis for Duterte even though the 2 have not even yet! That must be some medical professional!!! And to top that off, you seem to subscribe to that remote diagnosis! You are the very definition of the word gullible.

  3. DU30 pride was hurt when Obama won’t meet him. So now Du30 goes running to China to cry on their lap that he’s not being respected. For his pride he is going to pull the Philippines toward communist China. Wake up it’s not the USA that is stealing your islands it’s communist China. Look at Korea, the North communist Koreans and their loud mouth leader is a joke. South Korea which is protected by American bases is a 1st world industrial power. The choice should be yours not just this communist chinaman you elected.

    • I propose that the Philippines enter into War Games against China for the South China Sea Territory! Nobody loses their life!!!! Philippines Lose – China Gets the Territory! Lose – Lose Philippines! That way your new president can curse the US, appease his Big Yellow Brothers and hand over the territory without any political fallout! Philippines Lose – Lose! Still want to immigrate to the US? You do not hear the American People or our politicians cursing the Philippines or your politicians do you? No you say! Well well well! Time for the Filipino to stay home! Americans and our Soldiers don’t need your corruption and poverty and we should cut off all aid so not to contribute further to your corrupt LGU’s and politicians! We have our own problems to deal with.

  4. natawa lang ako sa article. ang galing ng intro medical ang diagnosis ng problema ni PDU30, hindi psychological. pero ng binasa ko ang article language and manner of communication ang problema pala. witch doctor ata yun sa india. malpractice makes perfect.

  5. i read the column to mean that the president is on his way to china to seek help for a medical problem diagnosed by an indian doctor.

  6. that is a long shot. he only needs to gargle holy water to cast away the demons in his mouth

  7. Mr. Yen, I read in our Philippine local folklore the HERBAL MEDICINE IN BICOL AREA for the expletive. If Mr. President DU30 would be suffering again from his expletive disease, you could graciously advise him to go to the birthplace of Sir. Kit Tatad, for Mr. president DU30 to try eating Siling Labuyo. Siling Labuyo is the best medicine in the Bicol area for anyone who becomes expletive or suffering from the expletive disease. I am very sure, Sir. Kit Tatad knows where to go there in his area or region V area. Sir Kit Tatad might advise our beloved President to drop by in the place of Vice President Robredo in Camarines Sur, and he could start therein eating some Siling Labuyo if he would like to. He could also drop by in Camalig Albay to take some hottest Pinangat there, so that before sailing to Catanduanes from the port of Tabaco City, Mr. President DU30 must have taken his complete meal already and ready now to take a plate of Siling Labuyo in Catanduanes. Mr. Yen, you don’t need to advise our beloved President DU30 to go to India to cure that expletive disease. Look at Sir. Kit Tatad, he is soft-spoken and his pen wrote an immortalized wisdom sharper than two double edged sword. Look at please Vice President Leni Robredo, she is soft and sweet spoken woman and a mother, and her heart and mind are all one to serve the poor- maybe she near to sainthood. Look at late Senator Roco whose wisdom and character of leadership has been immortalized by many until now. The Philippine local folklore on Siling Labuyo tells us that it heals expletive disease and cures toxic of our mind. Why not try!

  8. Leodegardo Pruna on

    PDu30 is simple and practical minded man and would therefore shy from engaging in complex issues where conflict would be inevitable. God bless the Philippines.

  9. Yen, Your cloaked attacks on DU30 seem to indicate that you are suffering a brain disease that makes you stay on the correct path of bribes rather than choose to be honest. If you want to be honest, name the medical problem(?) that you say was told to you, by a Doctor(?), specializing in Indian(?) medicine. Is this Doctor(?) in the PH?

    • A very serious medical problem. This puts the country in very serious problem of having a president who is terribly sick.