VIENTIANE, Laos – “Duterte! Duterte! Duterte!”
While Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte drew flak for criticizing US President Barack Obama, the Philippine leader got a different reception from Filipinos in Laos.
The Feungfar Grand Convention Hall in Vientiane, Laos, erupted in cheers on Monday evening, September 5, after Duterte delivered a speech before Filipinos here.
It was Duterte’s first speech as President before Filipinos overseas.
It was also part of his first foreign trip as chief executive.
The President is attending the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit here from Tuesday to Thursday, September 6 to 8.
In his speech on Monday evening, Duterte assured Filipinos in Laos of a clean government, wished them well, and also explained the war on drugs he is waging in the Philippines.
“I would also ask for your understanding that we are still in the process of eradicating drugs,” Duterte told Filipinos in Laos.
Duterte said: “Marami nang namatay. ‘Yung iba na sabing pinatay ng pulis, totoo ‘yan. ‘Yung iba, na-salvage. Totoo ‘yan pero hindi kami. Bakit ka magturo sa akin?”
(Many have died. Some have reportedly been killed by the police; that’s true. Others have been salvaged. That’s also true but that’s not us. Why would you point to me?)
At the same time, Duterte thanked the government of Laos for hosting Filipinos. “We appreciate deeply the space you made for my countrymen,” he said.
Annie Inventor, one of the Filipinos who listened to Duterte, said it warmed her heart to hear Duterte.
Inventor, a teacher who hails from Himamaylan in the Philippines, was also asked about perceptions that Duterte is embarrassing the Philippines because of his offensive language.
“View lang ‘yan ng tao,” Inventor said. (That’s just the view of people.)
Abe Batabat, another teacher in Laos, who comes from Quezon City, also said he was “very happy” to see Duterte.
“Masayang masaya kami dahil unang una, bumisita sya sa amin at binigyan niya kami ng pag-asa na sa ating bansa pag-uwi namin ay maayos na rin,” Batabat said.
(We’re really happy because first of all, he visited us and he gave us hope that when we return to the Philippines, it is much better.)
Asked about the recent killings in the Philippines because of Duterte’s war on drugs, Batabat said: “Sa akin okay lang ‘yon. Dapat kung ano ang inutang nila, magbabayad din sila.” (For me that’s okay. Whatever they owe, they have to pay.) – Rappler.com
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 email@example.com.