PH on Human Rights Watch report: Duterte like Lee Kuan Yew

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine government compared President Rodrigo Duterte to the late Singaporean prime minister Lee Kuan Yew on Saturday, January 14, after an international watchdog criticized Duterte's style of leadership.

In an interview with state-run dzRB, Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella defended Duterte's "authoritative" approach.

"Katulad ni Lee Kuan Yew, e you know, very strict din siya…Dati-dati, very strict siya when he was still in leadership, but then you can also see the progress of the nation," Abella said.

(Like Lee Kuan Yew, you know, he was also very strict…Before, he was very strict when he was still in leadership, but then you can also see the progress of the nation.)

Lee, 91, was an authoritarian leader who transformed Singapore from a sleepy British imperial outpost into a global trading and financial center. He died on March 23, 2015, after a 7-week struggle with pneumonia. 

Abella made his remarks after international organization Human Rights Watch (HRW), in its World Report 2017, included Duterte among populist leaders who have intensified the "flouting of human rights." His war on drugs, after all, has killed more than 6,200 people since July 1, 2016.

Common good

In his radio interview on Saturday, Abella also hit the "labels" placed by other people on Duterte. "They limit you," he said of these labels.

"But the President is very authoritative and… let us remember that he goes by the rule of law," Abella said. 

He added that while the "liberal political order" is "antagonistic" toward "more authoritarian forms" of governance, the Philippines is "very Asian" and "very Malay."

Abella explained that Asians tend to give greater importance to the "common good" as opposed to "the liberal institutions" that "tend to emphasize individual rights." 

Many of the President's supporters have already called Duterte the Lee Kuan Yew of the Philippines, even as The Straits Times associate editor Ravi Velloor once said this comparison is "laughably inappropriate." – with reports from Agence France-Presse/Rappler.com

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II is a senior reporter leading Rappler’s coverage of religion and foreign affairs. He finished MA Journalism in Ateneo and MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at pat.esmaquel@rappler.com.

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