FROM A DISTANCE By Carmen N. Pedrosa (The Philippine Star) | Updated December 18, 2016 - 12:00am
I thought I would skip politics with the Christmas season. But how can you escape when all the news is about politics and our President is the news, whether for bad or good.
The latest news about him is that for the first time a Filipino president is included in the Forbes list of the most powerful men of the world. How did he get into the list?
For me, his inclusion in the list was a welcome accident. While campaigning for change in the Philippines in “colorful language” he changed the world significantly because he took on American superpower.
It was done in one sentence at a speech in China. He pronounced that the Philippines, a weak and former colony would “separate” from its once powerful colonizer – the US – while in a state visit to China. That was a bold statement to make, hardly expected to come from a leader who won an upset victory that most did not think had a ghost of a chance to win the election.
It took courage to say that, more so because he was in China. After the subservience of former President Noynoy Aquino to American policy, it was a surprise move in a game of chess which checkmated the Queen. President Digong virtually removed the threat of a world war.
For a while, when Aquino was president, the world watched a dangerous game of brinkmanship by the two powers. It seemed that once again the Philippines, because of its strategic location, would be used for the interest of its former colonial master. With a leader like Aquino, it would have been a cinch.
President Digong perhaps hit the jackpot without meaning to. It was a major concern not only for the Philippines but to the entire world watching how the China-US conflict on the South China Sea might develop into a full war.
Moreover, in its demonstration of power the US interfered in the running of other countries, overthrowing governments, sacrificing lives and destroying property. President Digong re-opened the bitterness in these countries by using “colorful language” which was far more effective in shaming the US instead of fighting back through military means.
When he spoke for his country, he also spoke for these other countries. If we were to make a list of the countries it will be a long one. President Digong was able to do something they should have done if they had a leader like him but did not have one. Instead of military strength he used words and it worked.
I was speaking to a friend about President Digong’s colorful language (as former national security adviser Jose Almonte called it). There were some Filipinos who were disgusted by his rough cussing. Did he need to cuss? Did he need to say Obama was a son of a whore and the US ambassador was gay etc. etc.?
The colorful language started quite early in his campaign. Indeed it happened when he launched his presidential candidacy. He told his audience when he cursed the traffic during the arrival of the Pope in Manila. There were those who thought that would finish him. He might have been angry about the traffic but when he was told that it was the Pope’s arrival that caused the traffic, he said “better for him to go back home.” In the Philippines which is overwhelmingly Catholic that was a reckless thing to say. What is not said was that many may have thought about the same thing but would not dare say it like he did because “it is not allowed.”
Traditional media had a feast on the indiscretion of this Davao mayor who would launch his candidacy to be president by telling a story on how he cursed the Pope for the traffic. It was news for days. Supporters explained he was not cursing the Pope but cursing the traffic. But he did not need to explain. This was a man thinking outside the box. The confidante said it was a political tactic on how to get media exposure without money.
That explains, at least to me why he should be included in the Forbes list of powerful men of the world. With the “colorful language” he took up the revenge for those peoples who suffered and died with wrong policies of the US. But he will not have an easy time. His war against illegal drugs, crime and corruption in his country is a violation of human rights they claim. This is the imperialist tool to get back at him. Using traditional Western foreign media, the United Nations and other groups beholden to their governments, it is already in motion.
Russian President Vladimir Putin ranked as the world’s most powerful person for the fourth consecutive year. US president-elect Donald Trump came in second, with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Chinese President Xi Jinping ranking third and fourth, respectively. Pope Francis, the leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Roman Catholics, ranked fifth on the list.
Duterte was one of 11 new names in this year’s list.
Malacañang welcomed Duterte’s inclusion in the list and said the president would continue to use his power for the good of the country.
President Duterte was a reluctant presidential candidate who used the drug menace in his campaign and won because of it.
“The former mayor of Davao City was elected president of the Philippines in May 2016 on the strength of a campaign that promised the swift execution of drug users and other criminals, and his war on crime has already resulted in the killing of thousands of people,” Forbes said.
Once again Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte is in the news worldwide for saying that he had killed criminals himself. He said this in a speech in Singapore and that put him again in the headlines.
His audience who were mostly Filipinos living and working in Singapore cheered him as they had done so in other countries he has visited recently. And of course, it is peppered with his colorful language which thrilled them.
“Sons of whores I will really kill these idiots,” he said. “My campaign on drugs will not end, until the end of my term six years from now when every drug pusher is (killed),” he said, making a throat-cutting gesture.
For many Filipinos who are victims of crimes by drug users such words are reassuring. It is about their security especially Filipinos abroad who leave their families at home.
His statement about killing them himself was re-interpreted when he returned home.
“Maybe my bullets killed them, maybe not, but after the broom broom (shooting) they were all dead,” he told a news conference, adding the suspects had aimed a carbine rifle at him and the policemen.