Editor’s note: The following is an interview conducted by Rado Gatchalian. Gatchalian is one of the lead initiators of various DDS global events, DU30 Correspondent for Australia Blogger and organiser of RaDU30 Advocacy and The FILOsopher. He asked Eurasia Future’s Adam Garrie the following questions about President Duterte and The Philippines.
RG: Can you share with us how you started to know Duterte?
AG: As an international observer, I saw Duterte making headlines beyond The Philippines even from Davao, but it was during his run for the Philippine Presidency that I started to follow him closely because I felt that his election would determine the future of one of ASEAN’s most important countries in a very significant way.
RG: Why do you support Duterte?
AG: I support Duterte because he is a 21st century revolutionary. Revolutionaries of the 19th and early 20th centuries used guns and mass mobilisations of people in order to change their countries, but in the contemporary era, it is politicians with a strong and determined vision who are able to change things for the better. This revolutionary spirit reveals itself in many guises from economic and constitutional reform to the formation of new international partnerships, to social revival. These are the factors that make someone a productive revolutionary in this age.
Duterte’s policies are not only revolutionary but they are the correct ways to solve problems in The Philippines. Problem solving is the most important job of any good leader and for all of the problems facing his country, Duterte has proposed and implemented very effective solutions.
In terms of just a few of the specific reasons I support Duterte, fist of all, without modern infrastructure, one cannot have a seriously strong economy. From the Roman Empire to the present day, this has been the rule. Duterte’s ‘Build, Build, Build’ initiative is therefore one of the most important things he has done for the future of his country. It will create jobs, the opportunity for new businesses to expand and will attract many millions in clean foreign investment. Secondly, by tacking the horrors of the drug problem head-on, he is not only making life safer, healthier and better for all Filipinos but is showing the world that the country is open for business, including for tourism. No matter what else, if the drug problem had not been tackled, the problem would have eaten the country alive and destroyed everything – lives, infrastructure, the economy, the future. Duterte is like a captain who has steered his ship away from an iceberg in terms of the drug problem.
Finally, I believe his tax reforms and new foreign policy have demonstrated that he sees the direction the international winds are blowing and for the first time, The Philippines is leading rather than following or even worse, falling behind. China is THE economic superpower. This cannot be denied. If one wants to develop one’s nation in the 21st century, it is essential to have good relations with China. Duterte’s pledge to work cooperatively rather than aggressively with China in the South China Sea is a mark of a mature forward thinking statesman. China has recognised this and investment is already coming in as a result. The alternative is a stupidity and arrogance that would make the Philippines both poorer and less safe. But Duterte also realises that one must have good relations around the world, not just with the main economic power. This is why he has developed historically good relations with other countries including Russia, and positive relations Malaysia, India, Vietnam and many others. He also has left the door open to the United States and unlike the US Congress, he seems to have a good personal relationship with Donald Trump. This is the key to understanding Duterte’s foreign policy. It is about opening new doors without closing old doors, while at all times demanding respect from any potential partner. This is the model for success in the 21st century. It is a win-win model and Duterte is a global leader in pioneering this model who can be a positive example to many others.
RG: Duterte is a man of controversies such as his odd personality, issue on human rights, etc. Amidst these controversies — why do you think he remains to be so popular among Filipinos?
AG: Duterte remains popular among Filipinos because for them, their country is not page three of the New York Times or a chance for some reporter on CNN to make money by telling lies about The Philippines. For Filipinos, their country is their home, their family, their street, their work, their environment. Duterte is making the country better for all ordinary Filipinos. Federalism in particular will make the country more fair economically and it will force politicians to be more accountable to the people. Further reforms including the possibility of switching the country to a parliamentary system will also help bring government closer to the people and further from corrupt leaders of the past and the corporate oligarchs who have robbed the people’s wealth for decades.
Duterte is clearly a deeply sincere man. He is a strong leader but in terms of his personality, he is humble. He has no intention to live like some king. He is focused on his duty and his direct manner of speaking helps him to connect better to people who are tired of the fake mannerisms of corrupt leaders. Duterte is an honest man who says what he means. Only someone very bigoted in their mindset could dislike such a thing. Personally, I find it refreshing.
RG: What legacy do you think will he leave behind for the Philippines and the world?
AG: Assuming he is able to implement all of his reforms to the country, Duterte could be remembered like the Lee Kuan Yew of The Philippines. While Lee was the modern founder of his nation, Duterte’s task is in many ways harder. Duterte has to take a nation that has been independent since the 1940s and re-fashion it into a stronger, more sovereign, more functional and more prosperous society. This is even more difficult than building something from the bottom up.
I believe though, that if he is able to push forward with his reforms as President and possibly even continue on as Prime Minister in a new political system, that his legacy to his country could be similar to that of Lee’s in Singapore – that of a man who transformed a nation that seemed to have no destiny into a place for purpose whose people prosper and whose economy finds both regional and global success.
RG: Would you agree that he will become one of the greatest leaders we have, not only in the Philippines but the world? Why?
AG: Duterte’s model of geopolitical non-alignment, his win-win approach to international relations, his desire to renew an economy that works for people rather than corporate or political interests and his no-nonsense approach to terrorism and the drugs that fund terrorism, all goes to show that Duterte is well equipped to deal with the most important issues facing the entire globe today.
Pure capitalism and pure communism have failed, we need new mixed economic models that promote personal enterprise while protecting wealth for the greater good of all the people. Likewise, the age of rival ideological political blocs is also dead. The way forward is to work respectfully with as many countries as possible in order to bring about the win-win results that ought to be the goal of any partnership. In terms of ASEAN, Duterte has shown that it is possible to have good relations with China and Russia as well as India and the United States( as much as is possible given the attitude problem in Washington). Hopefully this will expand even further into good relations with Pakistan, western Eurasian countries like Turkey, the Arab world and developing African economies.
This is the model for the future. Duterte has embarrassed the old colonial regimes, including America, not by going to war or making threats, but by saying that there is a new way of doing things. Either we cooperate as equals or we avoid each other until we can. This is the way forward for all independent nations, whether rich, poor or developing. Privately, these neo-colonial powers fear Duterte because they know that his system will work if it is allowed to develop peacefully. For Duterte, I say, better to be feared than stepped on.
RG: What makes Duterte unique compared to other leaders?
AG: Not every leader sees things from a truly wide perspective. If you fix your gaze only on small issues, you lose sight of the bigger picture. Duterte sees things in the widest perspective and he understands the needs of the future. Duterte is already one of the most internationally prominent Filipino leaders in modern history. Only President Marcos was more widely known around the world and he was in power for much longer. Duterte has brought The Philippines to the front tier of ASEAN politics and by tackling issues that concern not just The Philippines not just ASEAN but the entire world, Duterte has been able to take his position as a respected world leader. Even those who dislike him cannot ignore his strength, his consistency and his revolutionary qualities.
RG: How do you perceive the Philippines before Duterte? Now that he is the President — how do you see the Philippines in five years?
AG: As President, Duterte has stayed true to himself and his promises. This is all anyone could ask for from any elected leader. In five years, I believe The Philippines will be among the fastest growing economies in the world and without doubt the most rapidly growing economy in ASEAN. I believe that the big cities of the country will look more advanced, clean and beautiful than ever and living standards even in small towns will be higher than ever before. I believe crime will be significantly down, foreign investment will be up and that China and Russia in particular will have further and more meaningful relations with the country, while US and European businesses will be begging to invest in such a dynamic economy, no matter what their politicians say. I believe that as people the Filipinos will be wealthier, happier and more confident than ever before.
By contrast, before Duterte, The Philippines was a country that was failing to live up to its potential. Many had given up, settled for less, thought to themselves nothing will change. Duterte has replaced this attitude with one of optimism and passion. It’s much better now than before.
RG: Could you please give your quick opinion (few words/one sentence) of the below in relationship with Duterte?
RG: International Criminal Court?
AG: A discredited, racist organisation that should be done away with.
RG: United Nations?
AG: A very noble idea that has been ruined by the imperial mindset of certain countries and an overall colonial mentality among too many developing nations that somehow think that powerful countries are automatically wiser than weaker ones. This is simply not true. Nikki Haley, the US Ambassador to the UN is a complete moron. It is she, not President Duterte who needs a psychiatric evaluation.
RG: Western Media?
AG: They are failing and the more they fail, the more they will invent lies about people their masters in big government do not like in order to try and stay relevant. It will back fire in the long term. In the short term, they should simply be ignored.
AG: China has pulled off a miracle. Not a single country in history has taken so many people out of poverty in such a short time. China is THE superpower of the modern age and everyone should have good relations with it. China is a far easier country to work with than the US because China is pragmatic and intelligent while the US government tends to be ideological and capricious. The future is China. If you want to be a part of it, be friendly with China. Chinese are good people and must be approached with a positive spirit.
AG: The USA is frightened of losing its power but it shouldn’t be. Many countries can decline without being destroyed or causing a calamity. Instead of modernising their approach and realising that there are still peaceful opportunities to do business around the world, even as one’s power declines, the US has become more aggressive and arrogant than ever. The Philippines can and should have a normal and respectful relationship with the USA, but such things are a two way street. The US must respect The Philippines and forgo what Duterte has rightly called a colonial mentality.
RG: War on Drugs?
AG: Drugs are as dangerous as genocide. They can destroy an entire groups of people and in so doing, they can destroy an entire country. If a vast army was at your door vowing destruction, you fight back. Drugs are no different. Drugs turn people into monsters, streets into blood-baths, cities into what Donald Trump might call a “shit hole”. Drugs are as big a danger to human rights as living under a terrorist regime. Duterte’s war on drugs is for human rights because in a drug free world, everyone can live safely and in peace with their neighbours. This is REAL human rights.
RG: Press Freedom?
AG: In The Philippines people can say whatever they want and they do. No one is shutting anyone up. The Rappler scandal in particular has everything to do with corporate finance and nothing to do with free speech. The question is about how they are financed not about their views. If an individual with no money behind them wanted to shout and scream about the President, they could stand in the middle of Manila and do so today, no one would stop them so long as they are not being disruptive to public order. Again, this is a buzz-word designed to scare people and make them think Duterte is a monster when he’s really a very modern leader.
RG: Extra Judicial Killing?
AG: When a policeman is trying to apprehend a criminal and remove a drug lab and is threatened by violence, he has no choice but to shoot, the same is true of ordinary people defending their families and their homes. Look at the United States where poorly trained police are filmed shooting someone who isn’t being violent or resisting just because of poor training or personal prejudice. This is extra-judicial killing.
RG: Senator Trillanes?
AG: His mouth is like a volcano. If he never spoke, he would be fine to be around. The moment he speaks, everyone should run away because his kind of talk only brings destruction.
RG: Senator Leila de Lima?
AG: Everything wrong with the old system. A self-serving corrupt bandit who hides behind foreign politicians to avoid justice. They should make her the Vice President of the United States, but I wouldn’t wish that on the regular people in America.
AG: Macros remains known as much for his background as his actions. He has grown as a public figure as the country has changed and I believe that his contributions are generally positive and that his critics are often motivated by things that are far from sincere.
AG: He still doesn’t realise that his time has passed. He is yesterday’s man. He needs a long vacation, but he must use his own money to pay for it.
RG: If you can give a friendly advice to Duterte — what will it be?
AG: Always be true to yourself. One can image that some people would have laid down and given up if they faced the constant criticism that you have to face on a daily basis. Also, do not be afraid to change the entire political system and throw out every politician who is detrimental to the public good. A great leader must make these big decisions. The future generations of the country will be grateful.
RG: What message would you like to give to the Filipino people?
AG: Never listen to critics who want you to be like someone else. Be the best for yourselves. Learn from positive examples, but use this to develop a better society that reflects your own characteristics. Remember that in the future, the countries that thought less of you, are now diminishing themselves while you are rising. Never be afraid and always be proud.