ADDRESSING criticism of his use of foul language, President Rodrigo Duterte said his mouth was not the reason the country has been put in a bad light.
Speaking to policemen at Camp Vicente Alagar in Cagayan de Oro on Thursday night, Duterte said the proliferation of illegal drugs should be the main issue, not his statements.
“Do not keep on complaining about my mouth because my mouth is not the problem. It cannot bring down a country,” the President said.
On Tuesday, the leading critic of Duterte’s anti-drug war, Sen. Leila de Lima, said the extrajudicial killings of 3,000 drug suspects and Duterte’s expletives against world leaders had given the country bad international press.
Duterte has grabbed local and international headlines for his expletive-laden rants against the United States, the United Nations and the European Union, all of which have condemned his administration’s way of addressing the drug menace.
Human rights advocates and foreign officials have also criticized his threats against criminals that supposedly contributed to the rise in extrajudicial killings in the country.
But Duterte said: “There is no law at all … Show me a law that prohibits the President from threatening criminals.”
The President reiterated that he did not order law enforcers to kill innocent people.
“Now, what’s my order to the police? … Just do your duty. Go there, arrest them and if there is resistance that would place your life in danger … kill them,” he said.
Obama welcome to probe
Duterte said he was not happy with how his war against illegal drugs was faring, adding that “On a scale of 1 to 10, we have achieved something like, about five.”
The President earlier asked for a six-month extension to his war on drugs, saying there were too many people involved in the narcotics trade and he “cannot kill them all.”
Duterte also downplayed claims that his tough talk was scaring off investors.
“And they are saying, [my statements]may affect financial ratings and the economy. So be it, leave the country. Then we will start on our own. I can go to China, I can go to Russia. I had a talk with them, they are waiting for me. So what the hell?” he said.
On Friday at the police regional headquarters in General Santos City, Duterte lashed out at foreigners for their failure to understand his war on drugs, and said US President Barack Obama was also welcome to investigate, aside from the EU and UN.
Obama was forced to cancel a bilateral meeting with Duterte in Laos early this month after the latter’s expletives and rants against the US for expressing concern over human rights violations in the drug war.
A senior Filipino diplomat contradicted Duterte and advised the President to “shut” his mouth to achieve amity with all nations.
“He is the most indecent person by the fact that he is cursing and cursing,” the diplomat stated. “What kind of president is that? He is so rude!”
The diplomat said the President should follow advice from people who know best and lead the country without others having to justify his demeanor.
Richard Javad Heydarian of De La Salle University’s political science department said Duterte’s expletives would always have undesirable repercussions if directed at international partners and organizations.
Any statement of the President will be considered a statement of policy, he pointed out.
“Well, the point is this: We want him to be more careful about his rhetoric and much more calibrated in his language,” Heydarian said.
Heydarian said Duterte should be reminded of the “metamorphosis” he promised before his inauguration.
The President should not expect that the international community and foreign media will not take his statements literally and look at their contexts carefully, he said.
“While he can expect the Filipino people or the large section of the Philippine electorate, and even the media, to decipher and decode the exact meaning of his often colorful rhetoric, I think it’s not realistic to expect much of the world to dedicate the same amount of nuance and attention to the context and details [of his words], because the world has so many things to take care of,” Heydarian said.
Anti-US rhetoric cheered
The communist National Democratic Front (NDF) however is upbeat about President Duterte’s anti-US rhetoric.
In a statement, the NDF said Duterte’s stance against the US and his expression of an independent foreign policy “bode well” for the proposed Comprehensive Agreement on Socio-Economic Reforms (Caser), the substantive agenda item in the next round of peace negotiations between the government and communist rebels.
“President Rodrigo Duterte’s anti-US statements at the recent Asean Summit bode well for Caser, especially if he actually crafts an independent foreign policy which is a requisite for building a self-reliant economy,” the NDF said.