Duterte rants about ‘U.S. and the West’ at Russian forum

JC Gotinga
Duterte rants about ‘U.S. and the West’ at Russian forum

Malacañang Photo

The President hits traditional western powers for supposedly encumbering his war on drugs that has killed thousands of Filipinos

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte laid out the Philippines’ diplomatic baggage with the “US and the West” at a think-tank forum in Sochi, Russia, with Russian President Vladimir Putin in the audience.

At the plenary session of the Valdai International Discussion Club on Thursday, October 3, Duterte blamed the “relative decline” of the Pax Americana, or the global order dominated by the US, on its “double standards” and the “geopolitical shift” brought about by the rise in wealth and influence of other countries.

Russia, for one, has long sought to undermine that US-led world order, and Duterte’s message hit the right notes with the forum.

“Some so-called friends act like they know the answers to our problems and impervious to our socio-economic and political conditions. They create rules and norms for almost everyone, and some refuse to be bound by the same. Think of the UNCLOS (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea), the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, and even the Convention on the Rights of the Child,” Duterte said during his speech, mentioning international agreements that the US has not ratified or, in the case of the Paris accords, has withdrawn from.

Without explicitly referring to the US and western powers at first, Duterte said these countries “weaponize human rights oblivious to its damaging consequences to the very people they seek to protect,” then pointed to “the chaos and instability” caused by their military interventions in Libya and Iraq.

Then, as is typical of Duterte, he drove the point “closer to home” by complaining about “unfair criticisms against my government about perceived excesses in our fight against drugs.”

Duterte’s war on drugs has killed at least 20,000 people, according to independent rights groups, over unproven accusations of drug dealing, as “collateral damage” in police raids, or assassinations.

“We have seen them backtrack from defense contracts over baseless apprehensions that we would use arms to violate human rights. Yet, you see the same countries supplying high-end weaponry to parties whose actual human rights record leaves so much to be desired,” Duterte added.

‘Not against the US or the West’

Then, just as he called for a “challenge” to the global order, Duterte said: “Let me be very clear – I am not against the United States and/or the West. The US is a close friend of the Philippines – in fact, our only treaty ally.”

He also said he was “not against liberalism,” the political doctrine of protecting and enhancing individual freedoms espoused by western powers.

However, Duterte said the Philippines’ US-centric traditional foreign policy was an “oversight of strategic proportion” that had left Russia “in the margins” of Philippine diplomacy.

The Philippines would broaden ties with Russia and even more countries, he added. 

“In the remaining 3 years of my term, we will likewise expand the horizon of Philippine diplomacy by deepening our engagement in Latin America, Africa, and Central Asia.” Ties with the Middle East will go beyond oil and migrant labor, Duterte said.

In the audience were Jordan’s King Abdullah II, Kazakhstan President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, and Azerbaijan President Heydar Oglu Aliyev.

Wrapping up his speech, Duterte called on the United Nations to be more sensitive of member countries’ differences. He said countries in the “Global South” like the Philippines must “act together” to remain relevant as they deal with the emergence of other global powers.

In the question and answer portion of the event, where he was asked two questions, Duterte ranted about his war on illegal drugs and his beef against human rights activists.

Duterte’s second official visit to Russia will end on Saturday, October 5. Since he took power in June 2016, the President has looked to Russia and China as a counterbalance to the US in his “independent foreign policy.”

Duterte looks to establish defense cooperation with Russia, with plans for the acquisition of military hardware. (READ: Duterte trumpets remarkable progress’ of PH-Russia ties in Putin meeting– Rappler.com

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JC Gotinga

JC Gotinga often reports about the West Philippine Sea, the communist insurgency, and terrorism as he covers national defense and security for Rappler. He enjoys telling stories about his hometown, Pasig City. JC has worked with Al Jazeera, CNN Philippines, News5, and CBN Asia.