THE country’s relationship with Malaysia will improve under the presidency of Rodrigo Duterte, who Asian leaders describe as “orang besar” or a strong democratic leader, according to Philippine Ambassador J. Eduardo Malaya.
“Filipinos and Asians are familiar with his type of leadership — ‘authoritative and not necessary authoritarian, and paternalistic and not at all undemocratic. We know this as ‘orang besar,’ a strong leader who takes care of his community,’ the envoy told The Manila Times via email.
Malaya explained that “orang besar” is an Asian concept of a great leader, particularly “big city mayors being the best suited to be presidents and prime ministers.”
Duterte served as mayor of Davao City for 22 years.
“Many are still coming to terms with our President-elect Rodrigo Duterte and his often unorthodox ways. Filipinos and those of us in the East are not at all apprehensive. We know and are familiar with this brand of leadership,” said Malaya, who recently hosted a Philippine National Day reception in the Malaysian capital, Kuala Lumpur.
He furnished The Manila Times a copy of his speech during the event that was attended by top Malaysian government officials.
“I wish to take this opportunity to acknowledge the long-standing partnership of Malaysia and the warm friendship of the Malaysian people. We are pleased to see the growing two-way trade and investmentflows between our business communities, as well as robust people-to-people engagements through tourism and cultural exchanges. We are also grateful for Malaysia’s facilitation of the peace process in Mindanao,” Malaya said.
The envoy noted that Filipinos have long been searching for a type of leader like Duterte, whom he likened to the late President Ramon Magsaysay in the 1950s.
Like the incoming President, Magsaysay was a very strong and popular leader.
“No Philippine leader has energized and electrified Filipinos since then until Rodrigo Duterte,” Malaya told his foreign counterparts.
He described recent elections in the Philippines as “transparent, impartial, expeditious and orderly.”
Malaya thanked outgoing President Benigno Aquino 3rd for his contributions to economic growth and diplomacy.
“Filipinos have much to be thankful for to outgoing President Benigno Aquino 3rd for the renaissance of the country, notably its stellar economic growth, specifically an unprecedented 6.9 percent GDP [gross domestic product]growth in the first quarter of this year, the highest in our Asian region and an average of 6.2 percent during his six-year term, the highest in four decades for the country,” the ambassador said.
Malaya further explained that Duterte’s background as a city mayor is believed by international political experts to be advantageous for the Philippines.
He cited several studies that show “big city mayors make the best national leader.”
“City mayors, singly and jointly, are responding to transnational problems more effectively than nation-states which we often mired in ideological infighting and sovereign rivalries,” he said, quoting one book about the subject.
Philippine Independence Day receptions traditionally hosted by Philippine embassies and Filipino community organizations overseas had a rousing start in Kuala Lumpur with performances by leading Filipino opera singers from Manila.
They are generally scheduled on or near June 12 but the reception in Kuala Lumpur was held earlier in deference to the observance of the holy month of Ramadan, which will commence on June 5 or 6, depending on the moon’s sighting.