Whenever we publish a news article that mentions President Duterte (in good faith, without any attempt at bias) we expect to be attacked. (For clarity: This is an “opinion” column, so I’ll say what I damn well please here).
We understand that his army of Filipino trolls will jump on anything that doesn’t portray him in the most glowing of terms, but we’ve been rather confused by the number of apparently right-wing American patriots who so often take issue with our reports.
Even when we merely convey, without comment or condemnation, the words that issue (on record) from his own mouth, we’re often accused of having a hidden agenda. Comments at the foot of such stories are peppered with insults such as “cry-baby libs”, “leftards” and (my personal favourite) “liberal bitches”.
Whenever I’ve looked at the Facebook pages of these commentators, more often than not, I find myself reading the thoughts and opinions of a deeply conservative and patriotic American.
So this is why I’m confused: Mr Duterte is a self-described socialist who hates America. In case anyone is still in doubt about this, let’s just recap some of our recent news (and news-based opinion) stories about the man…
He seems to be doing everything he can to sideline and insult his former “imperial” masters (also, see this). He wants to bring in visas for American citizens, close US military bases, cosy up to Washington’s most intractable opponents in Beijing and Moscow and even refuse aid payments from the country.
If that’s not enough, he said that “three out of five Americans are idiots” (also see here) called the former US ambassador a “gay son of a bitch” (because he had the temerity to criticise Duterte after he said that he “should have had first go” on an Australian nun who was raped before being murdered) and called Barack Obama a “son of a whore”.
Now, I know I’ll have to pause here, because after that last point I can almost hear the cries of “hell, yeah, goddam Obama”, “ain’t that so” and “you tell him Rody!”… Ok, so maybe you don’t like Obama, and never voted for him. Fair enough, but he’s still your democratically elected head of state and deserving of some respect (from foreigners, at least). It’s a generally accepted diplomatic convention that national leaders don’t insult one another’s mothers. I don’t think even Hitler said anything horrid about Churchill’s parentage.
Given some of the points I’ve just mentioned, it’s particularly baffling that some of the most fervent defenders of Duterte are former US servicemen. Surely they should retain (at least in theory) some loyalty to their nation’s commander in chief? Seeing their country’s long-standing ally getting cosy with old enemies must cause some alarm and annoyance. No?
Just a few days ago, we reported how armed communist guerrillas — still fighting Asia’s longest running Maoist/Marxist insurgency — openly gathered in the centre of Duterte’s power base in Davao, and declared their support for him. “The Reds would die for me,” the president (perhaps optimistically) declared just weeks earlier.
Some of these American veterans supporting Duterte are members of that brave generation who actually fought, often hand to hand, against the forces of communism. So how can they be so comfortable with backing a self-declared socialist who insults their leaders, and scorns their serving brothers in arms?
How does this work? I am genuinely bamboozled. Is it just because he’s being tough on crime? Dead bodies in the street, or in churches, are the sign of a good leader? Is that how it is? As basic, and as unthinking as that?
By that count, why aren’t you conservative patriots fans of Gaddafi or Saddam Hussein? What about Castro? Or Chavez? They all took a firm hand on “criminality”, and at least one of them was on the right of the political spectrum. So, why weren’t you lot cheerleaders for any of them?
So, again, now I’ve mentioned dead bodies in the streets (as a bad thing) some commentators will conclude that they were right the first time, and I am indeed a “liberal bitch”. But as I have admitted elsewhere, I generally describe myself as an extremely old-fashioned British Imperialist. I genuinely believe that much of the developing world would be much better today if there were red-faced blokes called Cuthbert or Dave hitting people with sticks for driving like idiots or dumping rubbish in rivers. An unfashionable view, of course, but one that absolutely disbars me from being labelled a “liberal”.
If there is one thing I can quite honestly (and seriously) take pride in from the British legacy to the world, it’s the rule of law, habeas corpus and the right to fair trial by jury. From what I understand, some of you chaps from over the pond are also quite fond of these concepts too. In his policy of encouraging extra-judicial killings, Duterte is trashing these concepts, that were bequeathed to his nation by America.
So, with all this said, how can any proud American, whether they served their nation or not, and from whichever wing of the political spectrum, possibly express support for this man?
Is it really just because he’s “tough on drugs”?