PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte’s intemperate, undiplomatic language is really reaping dividends for the Philippines.
His incurable critics may call him motor mouthed, say that his mouth runs faster than his brain but what the heck! He has been getting oodles of dollars for the country, and you can’t argue against success.
President Duterte’s diatribes against his favorite whipping boy, the United States, so pleased his host the Chinese government that it gave him a “pabaon” of $24 billion, including $13.5 billion in trade agreements. I guess he has been hitting jackpots with his attacks against the United States.
Last August, he called the very much married family man, former US Ambassador Philip Goldberg “gay” and “son of a bitch” and US Secretary of State John Kerry who had just visited the Philippines “crazy.” (Being called “gay” should no longer be considered an insult, although machos still live in a bygone era.)
It should be recalled that during the election campaign, Goldberg drew Duterte’s ire for his comments (“She was so beautiful. The mayor should have been first) on the gang rape of an Australian missionary by prisoners in Davao.
“Any statements by anyone, anywhere that either degrade women or trivialize issues so serious as rape or murder are not to be condoned,” the American diplomat said.
The then candidate Duterte said Goldberg was meddling in the elections, which annoyed him. Then came the visit of Kerry.
“Kerry came here. We had meal and he left me and (Defense Secretary) Delfin (Lorenzana) $33 million. I said OK. Maybe we should offend them more so this crazy will give us more money just to make peace. So, it’s all about money,” he said to an audience of soldiers in Cebu last August.
Many are now wondering if the US will try to rein in President Duterte with millions more in assistance or grants after he declared in Beijing his separation from the United States in both military and economic terms. That depends on how important the country is to President Obama’s “pivot to Asia” policy.
It also depends on how far President Duterte will go in needling or insulting the United States and its leaders. But if America needs the Philippines more than the Philippines needs America, then I guess US leaders can just grin and bear it.
Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay said the President’s language against the US merely indicated his desire that America stop treating Filipinos as their “little brown brother.” Yasay, who reportedly owns a condo in Waikiki, Honolulu worth at least $1 million said “America has failed us.”
But what if the US, along with the European Union, puts an economic squeeze on the Philippines? Well, then, this will put to a test President Duterte’s claim that the country can survive without foreign aid from these countries.
Ah, but what if the squeeze will hurt the Philippine economy? In such a case, the President still has an escape clause. Since he often speaks with few details, he can always say that foreign countries read his intentions wrongly. Note that his supposed advisers almost always interpret and explain his controversial statements.
Again, what if the US, the EU and other countries offended by his undiplomatic language, don’t buy the explanations and interpretations? Don’t worry. The President is set to visit Russia, which is certain to reward him should he continue in Moscow his strong criticisms against the US and other longtime allies. After President Duterte said that the Philippines would stand beside China and Russia against the world, how can Russia not try to fill in the void left by the US?
The President’s language has (so far) brought dividends to the country. The danger is that with the frequent subsequent clarifications and interpretations, time will come when he’ll lose his credibility, when his words really mean nothing even if he’s the President.
Oops, I take that back. He will always have millions of rabid followers to lean on, followers who’ll accept all official interpretations of his statements, whether they contradict each other or not.