A PALACE official on Wednesday said that ‘creative imagination’ must be used to decode President Rodrigo Duterte’s anti-American tirades and urged the public not to take his remarks literally.
At a press briefing Wednesday, Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella said when the President said he could cut ties with the United States over its criticism of his war on drugs, the threat should be taken in context.
“I think what is important is for us to understand the words ‘cut ties.’ He said, ‘it’s a possibility that he could, that he might.’ But, let’s try to use our creative imagination. We shouldn’t take his statements literally,” Abella said.
“You’ve seen the way he speaks, right? So in other words, let’s understand the context on how he said things,” he added.
In his speech before the Jewish Association of the Philippines in Makati City Tuesday night, Duterte said he would rather go to China or Russia, affirming his previous pronouncements of “crossing the Rubicon” and forging alliances with the two known US rivals, shortly after telling US President Barack Obama to “go to hell” and for the European Union to choose “purgatory” instead.
“Eventually in my time I would break up with America. I would rather go to Russia or to China. Even though we don’t agree with the ideology, they have respect for the people,” Duterte said.
Duterte’s new tirades against the United States were in sharp contrast to his statements last September, where he said the Philippines is not about to cut its security ties with Washington or with other allies.
“We are not going to cut our umbilical cord with the countries we are allied with,” Duterte said in remarks at the 48th anniversary of the 250th Presidential Airlift Wing in Villamor Air Base.
“We are not cutting our alliances–military [alliances] as well. But certainly, we will follow an independent posture and independent foreign policy,” he added.
In one of his early morning press briefings shortly after winning the presidency, Duterte earlier advised Manila-based reporters to check whether he was making “preposterous” statements or just plain serious.
Duterte went on to say that he is bipolar–a claim that, given his own warning, should be taken with a grain of salt.
Asked if the President’s statements Tuesday were official policy, Abella said Duterte had not given any definite pronouncement yet.
“He said he might. It’s not a definite yes, it’s not a definite no. The breaking up may not necessarily be a breaking up of alliances. It may, but he is not saying that,” Abella said.
Abella also denied that the country was leaning towards China and Russia, America’s rivals.
“I don’t think we are leaning. It’s not a question of leaning more towards Russia and China. It just that he has expanded his options,” he said.
“We’re not only leaning towards US. We’re also looking if we can talk to Russia and China, those who could help us. In fact, he’s creating relationship with the Asean.”
Also in the same press briefing, Abella addressed fears from Vice President Leni Robredo that Duterte’s harsh words might affect international support for the government’s anti-poverty initiatives.
“From the President’s perspective, it’s not so much the aid that we’re after; it is that we want to be received with dignity and not be subservient,” he added.
Abella also said that Duterte is a “one-man revolution” changing the country.
But House Minority Leader and Quezon Rep. Danilo Suarez on Wednesday said the seeming “lack of cohesion” of Duterte’s Cabinet members could hurt the country’s growth.
“In our observation, President Duterte micromanages the country’s peace and order operations, focusing on the war against drugs and criminality. However, on a macro level, it seems that the Cabinet secretaries are given much leeway to implement their respective policies,” Suarez told reporters in a press conference as President Duterte will mark his first 100 days in power Friday.
“In the long run, this can impede the achievement of their end goal due to lack of cohesion. At this point, we would like to ask: is this the paradigm of the current administration?” Suarez asked.
Suarez lamented the apparent helplessness of the Department of Transportation to address the huge traffic problem in Metro Manila.
Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, also an opposition lawmaker, accused the Cabinet members of President Duterte of not performing their main task to serve the people.
“Members of the Duterte Cabinet have sidelined their principal work to support the President’s drug war,” Lagman said.
“It appears that the overriding and singular policy of President Duterte is to obliterate the drug problem even at the expense of due process and the rule of law. The success of his campaign is indicated by the inordinate number of extrajudicial killings of suspects and the avalanche of drug dependents who have surrendered but could not be accommodated in the very limited drug rehabilitation centers in the country,” Lagman added.