In the 16 months that Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte has been in office, law enforcement officials in the country have reportedly killed nearly 4,000 people in an unprecedented crackdown of illegal drugs. Tragically, the figure does not include another 2,290 civilians whose murders were linked to drug-related crimes and thousands of others whose deaths remain a mystery.
The Filipino president has faced severe criticism for endorsing extrajudicial mass killings, imprisoning his critics and threatening to kill whoever raised their voice against his government.
Recently, addressing the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Danang, Vietnam, Duterte shared an anecdote about him fatally stabbing someone when he was just a teenager.
“At the age of 16, I already killed someone. A real person, a rumble, a stabbing,” the 72-year-old told the attendees. “I was just 16 years old. It was just over a look. How much more now that I am president?”
Although Duterte’s aides have repeatedly told media not to take everything the president says seriously as he often indulges in “hyperbole,” that doesn’t make his remarks any less troubling.
Then, in what could only be described as an ironic twist, the firebrand leader offered to host the world summit on human rights, inviting all victims of human rights violations to air their grievances — because who could be a better candidate to host such an event than a man who won the presidential election after promising to kill 100,000 drug-dealers.
"Let's have a summit of how we can protect human rights for all human race,” he said, before attacking United Nations human rights expert Agnes Callamard for her comments on the rising death toll of his extrajudicial crackdown.
“What makes the death of people in the Philippines more important than the rest of the children in the world that were massacred and killed?” the president asked, demanding why Callamard hasn’t commented on the ongoing violence in the Middle East. “I will slap her in front of you. Why? Because you are insulting me. Why? Because you yourself do not believe in the research of your own organization. Why are you so fascinated with drugs?”
The controversial leader previously made headlines for making inappropriate comments about the brutal rape-death of an Australian missionary in the Philippines and for calling former President Barack Obama “son of a w****.”
However, despite all the controversies, he is all set to meet with President Donald Trump as the latter wraps up his first tour to Asia since assuming the Oval Office.
The two men, both of whom ran a contentious and fiery election campaigns, share a knack for saying most offensive things about women and have a deep hatred for media, and have apparently developed a “warm rapport” during their friendly phone calls and exchange of letters, according to the White House.
Perhaps that is why Duterte didn’t hesitate warning his U.S. counterpart to “lay off” on human rights questions when they finally meet in Manila.
“You want to ask a question, I’ll give you an answer,” he said. “Lay off. That is not your business. That is my business. I take care of my country and I will nurture my country to health.”
Well, given Trump’s apparent fondness for world dictators, it doesn’t seem Trump will likely be bothered by not getting to discuss the topic with Duterte — after all, the U.S. commander-in-chief has praised Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi, who is accused of sanctioning the killings of some 800 protesters in a single day, for doing “a fantastic job in a very difficult situation.”
Moreover, Duterte also threatened to ban Democratic Rep. James McGovern and Republican Rep. Randy Hultgren from entering the country after they criticized Trump for inviting him to visit the United States and called on the president to address the abhorrent human rights situation in the Philippines
"If you do not like me, I do not like you. We're even," he said without naming any names. "I will tell them, you are too presumptuous. What made you think that I am even planning or thinking about visiting your country?"
Thumbnail/Banner: Reuters, Dondi Tawatao