Interview

Q&A Part of the Forum of the Valdai International Discussion club

Location 1389 Polyana Hotel Valdai Hall in Sochi, Russia

MODERATOR: And finally, my last question goes to President Duterte. Mr. President, you have mentioned that the US is your traditional ally. At the same time, as we can see, your country has drastically reshaped its foreign policy. It used to be unilaterally oriented towards the US and right now your foreign policy is multilateral, multivector, and Russia holds an important place in that regard. You have also managed to improve and reinforce your relations with China. How did you do that?

PRESIDENT DUTERTE: What — in the first place… In the first — sorry. In the first place, we have been a colony of Spain then with the United States. Altogether, Spain had about 300 years and 50 years under the yoke of imperialism by the United States. It’s all water under the bridge. And we have been prepared to do the governance that we desired.

Over the years, I have seen that the foreign policy of the Philippines always tailored that of the United States. And we can hardly go to some at that time communist countries just to explore trade and commerce.

It was looked upon by the American government as not a pleasant one, not a new development that would make them happy. And during my time, I was at a loss where to go. I didn’t have contacts. I was not really expected to win the presidency.

As a matter of fact, during the last week of the elections, I was in the number four. But a week before the elections, my rating shot up to 32 and so I won by a landslide. Now I wanted something more than just what a new — new country can give us.

And even in the purchase of arms and the things that they have given us, some were good, some were bad. And products, air assets that were given to us were refurbished from NATO. They had given to us.

And a week after, three of those we bought from them crashed, killed all my pilots and troops — six helicopters. And that was the time that I was also criticized heavily by the Human Rights of the United States Congress. And then to my surprise, even the Human Rights Commission.

You know, during the time of two presidents ago, we were told by the United States itself that if we do not take care, if we do not watch out, our country will be swallowed by drugs. And it came to pass with — about two presidents.

And we saw mayors, city mayors, and the chairman of the most basic unit of government, 50,000 into drugs. And when I took over, I found out about nine generals were involved in the trafficking of drugs.

I said I’m not only fighting corruption from the inside of government. I was fighting corrupt — corruption and the trafficking of drugs even in my government. And that is why I had to do something very fast.

And now people say that my pronouncements actually encourage everybody to kill the drug lords and drug addicts. You know, frankly, I would be happy to — if that things happened.

And I —- I enunciated the rule when I became President and that was also the same rule when I was mayor for 21 years in a city. And I said that I’m going to build a comfortable city, a safe city. A city where you can walk.

And I asked the police, “Ask your wife and children to walk the streets at night. If they come home unmolested, unbridled by worries, not victims of mugging and crimes.” Because there were so many addicts in the streets. And I said, “I want that kind of environment.” Then I proceeded.

This is I would pose to the entire community of the world. Is it wrong for a President to see — to say, rather — that: “Do not destroy my country especially the children because I will kill you?” And that was my order to the Armed Forces and to the police.

And right now, even as I fly here and go back. There are about again two generals who are still playing with drugs. And I said, “Well, I told you do not destroy my country because it is being flooded with drugs.”

With so many families created and become dysfunctional. You only have to have one addict in the family and the entire family collapses, becomes a socially disorganized unit. And I had to act fast.

And the Human Rights are accusing me of murdering 70 — now it’s 20, now it’s seven. So every…

You know, let me explain. These Human Rights guys are very eager to see a dead carcass of a criminal, a drug lord, a city mayor, and they would question me, “Why was he killed?” Despite of the evidence of drugs all over the — all over the house.

And one house of a certain mayor that was killed had paper walls stick with 500 pesos. It was made as a wall of the house inside. And so I said, “Well, I said I warned you do not do it because I will kill you.”

But I also ordered the military and the police, “Go out and dismantle the organized crime of drug trafficking. And if you find your life in danger, I will order you to shoot them rather see a policeman or a soldier dead.”

In Marawi rebellion, it started with a drug case. And so it was rebellion because almost everybody of that place which was really the laboratory of the entire Philippines where drug was produced and people had money. You can see no business there except the stalls. And yet…

Well, there was one, in another city, he had 100 cars. Two Lamborghinis and so many Porsches. And yet the Human Rights would still insist on a wrong committed by me. So I tell them I’m sorry. But if there is something, I told you,
“you dismantle”. And if in the process you kill…

And I said to the world and to the United Nations and to everybody, I take responsibility for all of the consequences of this drug war. I and I alone. If someday somebody has to be hanged, I will be — I will be happy. I will even put the noose on my neck and say “go ahead”.

Or if you want to shoot me in a firing squad, fine. Our national hero died well before a firing squad. That could be an honor for me to be the same in a situation.

But I do not aspire for honor. I do not aspire to be known. I’m just a citizen, a worker of government and I will do what it need, what I have to do to protect the people especially the next generation.

And that is the — what I have been known. They are always threatening me with bringing me to the… There would — that would be the day. We have courts in my country. The judges are independent. The prosecutors do not talk to me.

And so I said if there is somebody who will answer for this, I will but you have to do your job. And I have fired so many prosecutors and judges because corruption was eroding the very foundation of government.

And I said that was I said — I came up with a statement. Little did I know that I will not only fight — be fighting the criminals, the drug lords, the kidnappers, I was fighting men in my own government and the corruption that drugs bring.

Drugs cannot prosper, I tell you, unless the military and the police would allow it. If the city mayor in my city, if I say “do not do it”… And if you have been to the Philippines, do not look at the carcass of the criminals. You’ll get nothing.

But look at the many thousands of families that are socially dysfunctional because of drugs. If you want to destroy your enemy, feed one of his children with drugs and you don’t — the family goes kaput.

I am faced with the job of the Human Rights — the criminals. I do not — I do not have… I have no business. I have no universal right to destroy a fellow human being. I do not allow the military to shoot a person hogtied or with his stretched hand in surrender.

I told them that the only way that you can kill a criminal, the drug lords and the addicts is when your life is in danger. So shoot first before you die because if I go to the scene of the crime and I see that you are the one dying, I will kick you and finish you off for being stupid.

Do not allow government to be weakened by such. You have to impose order. And so that is what really bugs me. So the government of the United States before the… If I could only have what, two minutes? If I can have two minutes then I’ll tell you what.

The rifles… We have the longest insurgency problem. Communist insurgency problem. Armed struggle. It has killed so many of my soldiers. And the rifles were… You know, it has fired so many rounds, it becomes loosen. There is no more rifling. Not — it comes out turning at a very fast rate so that it has own velocity. It can hit the target. And I tried to buy about 24,000 M16s for my police and military.

You know, one congressman in the US or two stood up and said, “Do not give it to the Philippines especially to the mayor because he will use that, those rifles to kill his own Filipino citizen.”

And that is really funny. And I would ask US Congress, “Kindly educate yourself first. You have the CIA.” They’re around even here right now. CIA is listening to us. [laughter] I’m sure. Oh, they’re getting the message up there with their…

Kindly be kind to your fellowmen. Before you condemn, investigate. And allow us — before you come up with these results — allow us the right to be heard. It is a God-given right to any person whether you live in autocracy or a tyranny, every person has the right to be heard.

You know, human rights. The United States did not send me. They stopped the rifles at the time when the rebellion in Marawi was a brewing. I was here, scheduled to have a series of meetings about trade and commerce. But on the day, I just stayed there for six hours.

And I’m thankful that President Putin came all the way from somewhere to fly just to be in Moscow to talk to me before I took off. It took us about five months to quell the rebellion. And it was only when China and Russia gave us the very well-made guns. The new fighting now is from afar.

You don’t need to go to your enemy. You just place them at the crossroad. It can hit somebody two miles, two kilometers away. And those rifles that there were — were that good if the sniper has been trained properly. That was our advantage and that is our story.

I tried to buy helicopters and I was looking around South Korea and Russia and Israel. They said, “No, you cannot buy. You buy from us.” So Bell helicopter of Canada offered me 10, but with a condition that I cannot use it against my own citizens.

I said, “Look, stupid. I am buying these helicopters because they are killing the people, the rebels and my military men and my police. And you sell me a helicopter with a condition that I cannot place armaments, only for transport of dead soldiers — our wounded soldiers and for humanitarian reasons.”

When as a matter of fact, these rebels are rebelling because they want to oust the government. ISIS is there. We’re having a hard time fighting terrorism. They blow churches, so many. They blow military camps.

The suicide bombers are not from there but white-looking. I really don’t know their nationalities. We do not know because we can only recover bits and pieces of their bodies.

MODERATOR: Mr. President, I’m very sorry. I have a reputation in the Valdai Club to be very impolite. [laughter] So I’m sorry I’m intervening but maybe we’ll go ahead and then come back to you.

PRESIDENT DUTERTE: Yes. Well… Yes. It’s still one minute. [laughter and applause] I will end up by saying that… Well, this has been the issue in the Philippines, that they have a President who’s a murderer. I assure you. I have a religion. And they say that, well, bishops and all of this… They’ve been attacking me. And I said, “Your religion is not… I have my own God.”

And I’m planning to invite the Russian Orthodox missionaries to come to the Philippines so that we can look for a place where we can build the Orthodox Church. It was built many years ago by the Russians, 1922. This was destroyed. It’s an old dilapidated…

MODERATOR: Please excuse me, Mr. President, that’s one minute that’s still there… [laughter]

PRESIDENT DUTERTE: Yes. I’m now invoking freedom of religion. [laughter] Well, I must end by just — just disabusing the minds of people. I am not a killer. Some say a killer of what? Maybe — you know what it is.

You are all practicing it. Killing girls maybe, woman. We are good at that. I have yet to kill one human being. When I say I will kill you, well, that’s a statement coming from the mouth of a President.

MODERATOR: Okay.

PRESIDENT DUTERTE: I still have half a minute. I will forgo it.

MODERATOR: Probably, after the — we can… We have questions from the hall.

PRESIDENT DUTERTE: Yes.

MODERATOR: Probably next thing we’ll think about that, okay?

PRESIDENT DUTERTE: Oh I forgot about it. [laughter] Yes. I’d be happy to respond to it.

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PRESIDENT PUTIN: Ask the President of Philippines. Can we equal west to the east? No, seriously. No joke. President Duterte, can you actually equal west to the east? And can we talk about sort of a unisex approach so to say? East and west, this division. Is this a thing of the past or it’s a natural division to have west versus east?

PRESIDENT DUTERTE: I think that there has always been a divide between the east and the west, culturally and financially, except for China who has really doing great all these years, with so many dynasties. But the rest of East Asia had so many experiences of colonialism. That is why it’s very hard really to connect. They still harbor the…

The Indonesia went to the Dutch, the Philippines bowed to the Spaniards and the Americans, and Malaysia to… So any attempt that would force or persuade even a nation for them to adopt the Western ways is always suspect and that’s a problem.

So there has to be a more social intercourse and this should not only be limited to diplomatic levels but in terms of exchanges among people. And maybe allowing a certain amount of the — a station to visit other study, other nations.

In terms of loyalty it’s also very hard now to fathom where they are or where the Philippines is. I’m charting a new course, not really separate from America, but more of the colonial vestiges of the practice of the Bull diplomacy.

Where we go right after the independence in 1947. We have always been guided towards the what policies. And for the longest time we never had any concrete relations between Russia and the eastern block at the time because they were pictured to be the enemy of democracy.

And democracy then, to the Western world, was their monopoly and that the rest of the world were a totalitarian or ruled by despots and tyrants. And that has been the food for thought even among children. There’s always the USIS, it’s a library, and everybody attended there and you can see all the propaganda.

Maybe the next generation will. I am the last maybe of my generation. I was born in 1945. Practically we — but still the practice of the Western ways are all — are still there.

But intellectually, maybe educationally, it would take time. It is hard for the Filipinos to understand that there’s no such thing as a non-democratic government in the Eastern Europe at that time.

It was always an American propaganda against — nothing from the west. So it was not only after Berlin was liberated so to speak and that there was this exchange of ideas now from Germany. But it’s not enough, it’s not enough.

This is also because of the financial setup. We are always looked upon us, well, always sometimes the crumbs of your favor. And I think that America is one country who is not treating its former colonial…

And for the new generation and sometimes a few like me, we have a hurt for being subjugated by foreigners.

So it’s a colonial thing amongst the East Asian: Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei, Philippines. It cannot be solved in one diplomatic dinner. You would need about two or three generations from now for the Asians to really freely accept the Western world.

And that is true for China. The Opium Wars, the impositions of so many things that destroy the country and people. That does not go away suddenly.

They always refer it in their history as part of the struggle until now. That portion of having been colonized and brutalized is still a part of the paradigm when they talked about relations.

MODERATOR: Mr. President, can you wrap up? If we… Because…

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