Will Ramos criticism trigger defections?
CANBERRA—Fidel V. Ramos has fired a broadside at President Duterte and refused to join his entourage in his state visit to China. In his column early this month in the Bulletin, the former president and now special envoy to Beijing said Mr. Duterte was a “huge disappointment and letdown,” and that the administration was “losing badly” by giving priority to its war on drugs at the expense of issues like poverty, cost of living, foreign investments and jobs.
Ramos listed focus areas that could have been “doable” if Mr. Duterte had “hit the ground running instead of being stuck in endless controversies over extrajudicial killings of drug suspects and his ability at using cuss words and insults instead of civilized language.”
The war on drugs, the single issue of Mr. Duterte’s first 100 days, has killed more than 3,000 Filipinos since he took office on June 30, with a number shot dead by policemen and the rest blamed by activists on vigilante killings incited by Mr. Duterte’s inflammatory statements.
His take-no-prisoners stance has earned outrage and condemnation for violation of human rights from the United Nations, the United States, the European Union, and international human rights organizations.
Ramos raked Mr. Duterte over the coals on a broad range of issues including foreign policy and security alliances. He took Mr. Duterte to task for making “discombobulating” statements on PH-US relations, such as attacking US President Barack Obama at the same time that the defense and finance secretaries were on a visit to America. Mr. Duterte has also said, variously, that Obama should “go to hell,” that he might “break up with the US,” and that the then ongoing PH-US war games would be “the last.” He has even challenged Washington to use the CIA to oust him, provoking the possibility that the US government would call his bluff.
“So what gives?” Ramos asked. He expressed the forlorn hope that the next 100 days would be “much, much better,” and that Mr. Duterte would consider “the entire gamut of Philippine problems, starting with poverty.”
In airing his criticism, Ramos stood on their head survey results showing that the President was enjoying high ratings for his first 100 days. Ramos’ broadside is comparable to his withdrawal of support, along with then Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile, from the Marcos dictatorship in February 1986, which triggered the People Power revolution that toppled the dictatorship.
Recent surveys show that international outrage over the killings in the war on drugs is making a dent in Mr. Duterte’s popularity. According to Pulse Asia’s survey on Sept. 15-Oct. 1, trust in Mr. Duterte has slipped from 91 percent to 86 percent.
At the international front, a dire warning was aired by the International Criminal Court. Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda of the ICC issued a statement in The Hague saying that her office was closely following developments in the Philippines and raising concern over the extrajudicial killings of suspected drug users and pushers.
“I am deeply concerned about these killings and the fact that public statements from high officials of the Philippines seem to condone such killings,” Bensouda said, adding:
“Let me be clear. Any person in the Philippines who incites or engages in acts of mass violence, including by ordering, requesting, or contributing, in any manner, to the commission of crimes within the jurisdiction of the ICC is potentially liable to prosecution before the court.
“My office, in accordance with its mandate under the Rome Statute, will be closely following developments in the Philippines in the weeks to come and record any instance of incitement or resort to violence, with a view to assessing whether a preliminary examination [of] the situation of the Philippines needs to be opened.”
Amando Doronila was a regular columnist of the Inquirer from 1994 to May 2016.
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