Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte obvioulsy doesn’t take well to criticism.
The leader said this month he personally had killed suspected criminals as past mayor of the country’s second largest city Davao. Since the 72-year-old leader with a reputation for fighting crime took office as president June 30, an estimated 5,000 to 6,000 people have been executed without trial in his campaign to rid the Southeast Asian archipelago of drugs such as “shabu” methamphetamine. Duterte learned that trick from Davao where he was mayor for 22 years and would personally patrol parts of the city for crime.
Also this month the U.S. anti-poverty agency Millennium Challenge Corp. said it would withhold $433 million in aid to the Philippines over civil liberty concerns, a likely reference to the drug-linked killings. So Duterte told the United States, an old ally, to “prepare to leave” his country and threatened to cancel a Visiting Forces Agreement that authorizes military exchanges with Washington. Duterte has used dirty language against the Pope, a U.N. official and others overseas for raising red flags about the extrajudicial killings, per news reports. On Dec. 5 he asked Philippine Vice President Leni Robredo, who was elected separately and represents an opposition party, to leave his cabinet. She too has questioned Duterte’s anti-crime tactics.
But the Communist government in Beijing has a history of locking up its own people and making threats against foreign governments for questioning things it does. China has not slammed Duterte’s drug campaign and how could it? In China you go to court for a show trial (few defenses are taken seriously) on suspicion of a heinous crime before being executed. In the Philippines a drug dealer might get killed now without the trial.
The two governments may be meant for each other, a reason smoothing the sudden improvement in once badly strained relations since Duterte took office. China traditionally forms its best ties in Asia with countries that don’t criticize it – Cambodia and Malaysia for example. It’s all the better if those countries leave China’s maritime expansion alone, negotiating one-on-one over use of any overlapping waters and Duterte has said OK to that. China seldom criticizes any country’s internal affairs, including how it handles criminals, unless someone else fires something off first like U.S. officials raising human rights issues.
Duterte is also chasing other countries unlikely to bash his approach to controlling the drug trade. Japan hasn’t said much, and in October Duterte visited Tokyo to lock in good relations there. It’s hard to imagine a blast of outrage from Russia, which is probably Duterte’s next foreign policy priority.
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