THE Palace on Sunday slammed the French newspaper Libération for calling President Rodrigo Duterte “a serial killer” as the death toll continued to rise in his bloody war on drugs.
“I think it’s irresponsible. It’s irresponsible the way they have said it and the way they carelessly used these words and their media power to think the Philippines in such a way,” said presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella in an interview with radio dzMM.
Duterte, despite his volatile rhetoric, has always underscored that all government agencies must follow the rule of law, even with problems as drastic as illegal drugs, which have affected 40,000 barangays, Abella said.
“Well, in fact, 97 percent of the barangays have actually been affected. Ninety-seven percent of barangays, can you imagine that? [There are] 45,000 barangays all over the Philippines… For the longest time, the drug problem was not given attention. Now, it has grown so much so that drastic measures have to be taken.
But the President says, despite his colorful language, that in practice, everything has to be done with regularity,” Abella said.
Libération, a newspaper in France, published a banner story Saturday about Duterte’s anti-drug campaign that has left over 3,000 people dead.
Written by Arnaud Vaulerin, the four-page article also touched on Duterte’s expletive-laced tirades against US President Barack Obama and Pope Francis, his comments referencing the mass murder of Jews under Adolf Hitler’s command and his alleged ties to a hit squad in Davao City.
Abella, however, argued that the true state of the country is not reflected by foreign news reports, but by the public’s confidence in Duterte.
“The best picture, the best mirror of what’s happening in the Philippines, is the public, the citizens who are affected. So far, the response that we see, they have a very high appreciation of what the President is doing,” he said.
Duterte has earned a net satisfaction rating of +64 or “very good” despite the controversies marring his three months in office, according to a recent Social Weather Stations survey.
Abella also said that based on Duterte’s inaugural speech “what he wants is a comfortable life for all.”
Duterte’s three-point agenda is to reduce poverty, create peace within the country’s borders, and to address crime and corruption and drugs.
Abella also played down the deaths in Duterte’s war on drugs.
“We must see the big picture here,” he said, suggesting that many people still do not see how serious the problem of illegal drugs has become.
On Sunday, actress Agot Isidro made waves on the internet by calling Duterte a “psychopath,” after the President dared the European Union and the United States to go ahead and withdraw aid from the Philippines.
Duterte made the statement in reaction to a warning from Vice President Leni Robredo that the President’s tirades could strain diplomatic ties and eventually cut the flow of international aid to the Philippines.
But Duterte said the country can survive without foreign assistance and added that he would be the first to go hungry and die of hunger, but would “never, never compromise” the Filipino’s integrity.
In response, Isidro posted this message in a mix of Filipino and English on her Facebook page:
“First of all, nobody is picking a fight with you. As a matter of fact, you are the one starting the fight.
“Second, the country where you were elected by 16 million out of 100+ million people is Third World. You talk like the Philippines is a superpower. And excuse me, we don’t want to go hungry. You go ahead. Don’t drag us into it. So many people are already hungry and you want to starve them further.
“Third, I know a psychiatrist. Have yourself examined. You’re not bipolar. You are a pyschopath.”
Isidro’s post received more that 12,000 likes and was shared more than 4,300 times as of Sunday.
The post drew strong reactions from both the President’s supporters and critics.
Fellow singer-actress Mitch Valdes commented, “Took the words out of my mouth Agot. Why do I have to suffer just because of your pricked ego?”
Singer Jim Paredes also shared Isidro’s post with this comment, “This is the kind of advise Duterte should be listening to. Thank you for saying it, Agot!”
But, Mocha Uson, a Duterte supporter, responded to Isidro’s tirade by posting: “RESPECT begets RESPECT” in a meme of a screenshot of the controversial post side by side with another post of Agot in June that shows her in a photo with Vice President Leni Robredo that was captioned, “Tonight’s Agenda. A thanksgiving reunion for newly elected VP Leni Robredo together with her supporters.”
Earlier, Isidro also posted: “If you need violence to enforce your ideas, your ideas are worthless.”
Abella said the post was Isidro’s opinion, but also “revealed the kind of attitude that the President is addressing—dependency on foreign aid.”
“He wants the Filipino people to gain true independence, economically, mentally and socially,” Abella said in a text message.
“While Ms Isidro is entitled to her own opinion we need to really hear what the President is calling Filipinos to do, which is be free from dependence on foreign aid, which is what the lady is fearful we will lose,” Abella said.