MANILA, Philippines – Former president Fidel Ramos criticized President Rodrigo Duterte for focusing on historical atrocities, saying the country's leaders should be more forward-thinking.
"For a leader, I am sorry to tell this: President Duterte, my president, our president, that is 20th-century thinking," Ramos said in an interview with Lynda Jumilla on ANC.
"We are now in the 21st century and we must look forward to this better world that our young people aspire for," he added.
In some of his public addresses in recent weeks, Duterte had mentioned the 1906 Bud Dajo massacre of Moros in Sulu by American colonial soldiers – his way of showing the "hypocrisy" of the United States when it called him out on possible human rights violations in his drug war.
Duterte first brought this up at the 11th East Asia Summit in Laos in early September attended by Southeast Asian leaders and others, including US President Barack Obama. Duterte showed photos of the Bud Dajo massacre instead of reading a prepared speech where he would have urged respect for the Philippines' historic victory against China in their dispute in the South China Sea.
While Ramos said these historical incidents should not be forgotten, it is the job of leaders to move the country forward from these atrocities.
"Of course Bud Dajo happened. Of course the various massacres in Mindanao took place...That must not be the mentality of our leaders these days. Let us lead, as it says in the good book, the Bible, our people, to a promised land, to a better land, where all of these frailties of humankind are being made to disappear little by little," said Ramos.
Not too old to change
The former president dismissed sentiments that the public should not expect Duterte to change his brash ways of handling criticism because of his old age.
He even pointed to himself as proof that old age is not an excuse to reject change.
"At age 71, [Duterte's] still young enough. Me at 88, I'm stll changing every day, learning from my grandchildren who are millennials in terms of my attitude to life," said Ramos, who Duterte is known to admire, even mentioning him first in his inaugural address as the man who convinced him to seek the presidency.
Duterte has told the public not to expect him to change his ways, saying his cursing and temper are part of his "identity."
But a month before assuming the presidency, then president-elect Duterte had said he would "behave" once in power.
Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.