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COMMENTARY

Duterte plays hard ball

12:08 AM November 09, 2016

CANBERRA—In his arrival speech, Duterte claimed that during the flight on his way home from Japan last Oct. 27, he was  looking at the sky while everyone was sound asleep, “when I heard a voice that said, ‘If you don’t’ stop (throwing) epithets, I will bring this plane down now.’”

According to Duterte, the dialogue continued this way: “And I said. ‘Who is this?’ So, of course, ‘It’s God.’ So I promised God to. . .  not express. . .  cuss words and everything. So, you guys hear me right away always, because (a) promise to God is a promise to the Filipino people.’”

But within a week after hearing the “voice of God” and pledging he won’t swear again, President Duterte was back on the road with a vengeance, unleashing a barrage of profanities.

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On Oct. 31, he warned policemen not to engage in illegal drugs trade. “Never engage in illegal drugs. S– of b—–, I will kill you. I’m telling you,” he said in Tagalog.

And the following Wednesday, the President cursed the United States. “Look at these monkeys. . . . Son of a bitch. There are lots of air guns. The Americans are fools.” He then went into a rant, accusing America of intervening in the country’s affairs, and blaming it for starting the word war.  Duterte was deriding the decision to halt the planned sale of assault rifles to the Philippine National Police, saying the Philippines could just turn to Russia for firearms. He asked reporters, “Ïs that all they can say to threaten me? That  they will not sell firearms to us? We have many air rifles here.”

He must have been joking. May we ask? What can air rifles do to defend the territorial integrity of the Philippines from aggressive, expansionist China.

From my recollections, no previous Philippine president ever claimed to have talked with God. The question now is: So, what happens next after Duterte broke his pledge to God. Will there be divine retribution for the breach of promise?

Veteran journalists, normally sceptical individuals, wondered whether Duterte was being paranoid or was simply spinning a tall tale to depict his administration as the beneficiary of divine intervention, in an attempt to bail himself out of the international condemnation he has found himself in because of the extrajudicial executions that have defined his war on drugs.

The sale of 27,304 M4 assault rifles was aborted after US Sen. Ben Cardin, the most senior Democrat in the US Senate foreign relations committee, was reported last Oct. 31 publicly opposing the transaction. In line with the US procedures on arms deals, the State Department informs Congress when international sales are in the works.

Cardin’s aides said the senator objected to providing weapons to the Philippines because of concerns about human rights violations in the country under the Duterte regime. More than 3,700 people have been killed in police operations or by suspected vigilantes since Duterte took office last June 30 and launched a brutal war on illegal drugs.

International criticism on the Duterte’s violent campaign against drugs has angered the President, who almost daily hurls profanity-laden tirades at pet targets.

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The blasts against America, in particular, have complicated relations between Manila and Washington. Last month, during a state visit to Beijing, Duterte declared the Philippines’ “separation” from the United States and his country’s realignment with China.  Before his trip to Beijing, Duterte said the United States had refused to sell weapons to the Philippines, but he did not care because Russia and China were willing suppliers.

In Davao City on Tuesday night, Duterte, playing the card of pitting the United States against Russia, announced his administration’s turn to Russia for arming the PNP. He revealed that the Russian ambassador had told him, “Come to Russia. We have everything you need.”

At what price, Duterte did not disclose. The public has a reason and the right to ask him the question. At what price? He owes it to us to tell what the quid pro quo, the tradeoff is.

Amando Doronila was a regular columnist of the Inquirer from 1994 to May 2016.

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TAGS: China, Japan, profanities, Rodrigo Duterte, US
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