MALACAÑANG on Friday defended President Rodrigo Duterte’s tough stand against illegal drugs after he was listed among the world’s strongmen on the cover of Time Magazine, along with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban.
“In the Philippines, a rising tide of violent street crime helped elect Rodrigo Duterte, a former mayor who talked more like a Mob boss than a President, on his promises to wipe out the drug trade with his own brand of justice,” wrote Ian Bremmer in the Time cover story.
In a statement, Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque said the President has demonstrated “strong and decisive leadership, a quality appreciated by Filipinos as evidenced by... [his] high satisfaction, approval, trust and performance ratings.”
But in a speech in Davao City, Duterte denied he was a strongman and said he respected democratic freedoms.
“In Time Magazine, they said I am a strongman. I’m not a strongman,” Duterte said in Filipino.
“I have never sent anyone to jail for criticizing me,” he added. “You can criticize me or bullshit me to no end… You are my employer, I’m an employee. I’m just a government worker,” he said.
Duterte said Filipinos continued to enjoy free speech, but said he would not let a foreigner criticize him in his own country.
The President has attracted intense controversy for a bloody drug war and undiplomatic remarks since he took office in June 2016.
The straight-talking former Davao mayor won by a landslide on the back of promises to tackle crime and corruption, and remains popular domestically for his hardline policies.
However, President Duterte earned criticism from the international community and rights groups that say his policies amount to human rights abuses.
“Filipinos have learned not to take the President literally with his colorful language but they have surely taken seriously the issues the President has espoused, such as the war on drugs and crime,” Roque said Friday.
Roque said the drug problem is not only a Philippine concern but a global one.
“It is a global burden and the Philippines’ war on drugs has been acknowledged by countries and leaders, including Indonesia, China, President Donald Trump and police leaders from other Southeast Asian countries,” Roque said.
He said the President’s brand of justice strictly adheres to the rule of law where the dismantling of the drug apparatus ensures the proper investigation of all drug-related killings.
In his piece in Time, Bremmer detailed the rise of strongmen and why it should be a cause for concern. With PNA
“In every region of the world, changing times have boosted public demand for more muscular, assertive leadership. These tough-talking populists promise to protect ‘us’ from ‘them,’” Bremmer wrote.
“Depending on who’s talking, ‘them’ can mean the corrupt elite or the grasping poor; foreigners or members of racial, ethnic or religious minorities. Or disloyal politicians, bureaucrats, bankers or judges. Or lying reporters. Out of this divide, a new archetype of leader has emerged. We’re now in the strongman era.” With PNA
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