Philippine president rips on President Obama


Duterte puts on a serious face for a group of reporters.

Evan Rocha, Staff Writer

Recently elected President of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte, has come under controversy in the US for telling President Obama to “go to hell” and that he would “break up” with the US due to criticisms the US government has made of Duterte’s government.

Rodrigo Duterte was elected President of the Philippines in June this year, and while he has flown under the radar of most Western media outlets so far, since his victory he has become more prominent due to his harsh stance on drug offenders and criminals. Duterte openly ran on the platform of killing, not arresting or rehabilitating, but hunting down, killing, and weeding out the drug-using and selling population of the Philippines. The Philippines has one of the worst issues with drug trafficking and abuse in Southeast Asia, and it has brought great amounts of crime, violence, and corruption to many parts of the country. Duterte won with a 16% lead in a presidential election with 81% turnout (about 15% higher than most US presidential elections), with political analysts citing the general concern of the populace with the drug problem as a key motivating factor in Duterte’s victory.

Since winning the election, Duterte has only ramped up his cause. He has started an official “drug war” in the Philippines, and has encouraged random citizens to take up a vigilante role to hunt down and kill drug users with his explicit permission and pardon. So far, over 3,500 people have died and over 21,000 have been arrested. Naturally, this sort of behavior has many world governments, but especially the United States’ worried. The Obama Administration is worried at the actions Duterte has taken, with the State Department condemning Duterte’s extrajudicial killings and human rights violations. Duterte has responded with rather uncouth lambasting of President Obama, telling him to “go to hell” and that he is the “son of a *****”. This has strained relations with the US significantly, although the State Department maintains that the alliance between the US and the Philippines is key for the US presence in Southeast Asia. Duterte has stated that he has met with representatives in China and Russia, and that the Philippines will consider allying with either or both of them in place of the US, if the US continues to protest against his drug war.

Despite Duterte’s actions being against many international human rights agreements, he remains immensely popular within the Philippines. In an independent poll taken soon after his inauguration, 91% of Filipinos support Duterte. A common theory for this is that many people in the Philippines are tired of the drug problems, and that they’re tired of the corrupt politicians who often support the illegal narcotics trade. Duterte, despite his many flaws, is not a corrupt politician. He does not accept bribe money like many other Filipino politicians, and his government, despite committing many human rights violations, is clean in terms of scandals and political honesty. In addition, his extreme stance against drug users has made him extremely popular with many people. Nothing like this has really been attempted in decades. Whether or not Duterte will seriously consider ending the Philippines’ 70-year relationship with the U.S. remains to be seen.