Dumb Duterte has Dan­ger­ous Leader Syn­drome

The Myanmar Times - - Front Page - ROGER MITTON roger­mit­ton@gmail.com

FOLKS are dif­fer­ent and dif­fer­ent points of view should be tol­er­ated, even when they are pro­foundly an­noy­ing or em­bar­rass­ingly silly or just plain wacky. So per­haps a de­gree of tol­er­ance should be shown toward a man who ap­pears, well, ut­terly bonkers, namely Pres­i­dent Ro­drigo Duterte of the Philip­pines; but then again, per­haps it should not.

For if there is one thing that is pretty in­dis­putable in this world, it is that those who are bonkers, foul­mouthed, dis­hon­est, racist, cor­rupt and an in­sult to nor­mal civilised be­hav­iour ul­ti­mately get called out.

So it is prob­a­bly fair to say, since Duterte has al­ready com­mit­ted all these sins and oth­ers, and as he ap­pears unrepentant about do­ing so, his days as a po­lit­i­cal leader are likely to end sooner rather than later.

In­deed, if Duterte, 71, lasts as long as one of his quite re­cent, ill-fated pre­de­ces­sors, Joseph Estrada, it will sur­prise many ob­servers of Philip­pine pol­i­tics.

The two men are rather sim­i­lar. Estrada, like Duterte, was a straighttalk­ing pop­ulist and se­rial phi­lan­derer, who served as a town mayor for many years be­fore winning the pres­i­dency in 1998 by a wide mar­gin.

But due to his many foibles and mis­de­meanors, most es­pe­cially plun­der­ing the trea­sury of some US$80 mil­lion, Estrada lasted less than half of his six-year term be­fore be­ing im­peached and booted out.

Duterte has only been in office for six months and al­ready many voices are say­ing that he could face a sim­i­lar fate be­fore very long.

For in­stance, Car­lyle Thayer, a re­spected re­gional an­a­lyst at the Aus­tralian De­fence Force Academy, said Duterte’s baf­fling move to pivot the Philip­pines away from the United States and into China’s or­bit could come un­rav­elled.

For sure, given Duterte’s volatil­ity, the Chi­nese will be cau­tious and will know that any hic­cup in their ties with Manila could re­sult in Duterte piv­ot­ing round in an­other di­rec­tion.

“China will have to cal­cu­late whether Pres­i­dent Duterte will last his six years in office and whether the Philip­pines will re­main sta­ble,” said Thayer.

Both those mat­ters are now open to se­ri­ous doubt, given that right after Duterte’s visit to Bei­jing when he ex­tolled his “sep­a­ra­tion” from the US, his spe­cial en­voy to China, for­mer pres­i­dent Fidel Ramos, de­serted him.

In what was viewed as a ma­jor coup at the time, Duterte sent the es­teemed Ramos to Hong Kong to seek an ac­cord after a United Na­tions tri­bunal had up­held Manila’s claims in the South China Sea and re­jected Bei­jng’s.

All ap­peared to go well at first, but then Ramos, a cour­te­ous and prin­ci­pled 88-year-old, be­came in­creas­ingly irked by his pres­i­dent’s gut­ter lan­guage and his pol­icy of ex­ter­mi­nat­ing al­leged drug users with­out due process.

So Ramos, a for­mer chief of the armed forces, penned an open letter last month in which he lam­basted Duterte’s at­tacks on the US and the UN, and said his first 100 days in office were a “huge dis­ap­point­ment and let­down”.

Later, on Oc­to­ber 30, he wrote an­other con­dem­na­tion in which he charged Duterte with “un­wit­tingly shoot­ing him­self in the mouth” and tak­ing “101.5 mil­lion Filipinos” along with him by gra­tu­itously ma­lign­ing the US.

Ramos, a for­mer men­tor of the pres­i­dent, was so in­fu­ri­ated that at one point he stooped to us­ing the kind of bar­rack-room lan­guage that is Duterte’s forte.

He wrote that the pres­i­dent “may claim that to be more in­sult­ing than friendly to our long-es­tab­lished al­lies is part of his God-given des­tiny, but this is ob­vi­ously wrong and full of S .... T!!!”.

Not nice from ei­ther side, but Ramos, whom I met in Wash­ing­ton some years ago and re­gard as among his na­tion’s top post-in­de­pen­dence lead­ers, can per­haps be ex­cused.

Cer­tainly, he is not the only se­nior fig­ure to be ex­as­per­ated. An­other ac­quain­tance of mine, Fran­cisco Tatad, a for­mer Philip­pine se­na­tor and min­is­ter of in­for­ma­tion, was also suf­fi­ciently riled to write to the press.

Echo­ing a grow­ing na­tion­wide sense of em­bar­rass­ment and dis­be­lief at Duterte’s wild be­hav­iour and un­re­strained cru­elty, Tatad re­ferred to an ar­ti­cle on Dan­ger­ous Leader Dis­or­der by John D Mayer.

After ex­am­in­ing the lives of Josef Stalin, Sad­dam Hus­sein and Adolf Hitler, whose ac­tions Duterte has said he’d like to copy, Mayer con­cluded that these lead­ers have three things in com­mon.

They are in­dif­fer­ent to the suf­fer­ing and degra­da­tion of other peo­ple, they are in­tol­er­ant of crit­i­cism, and they have a hy­per-el­e­vated sense of their own im­por­tance to the na­tion.

Duterte has al­ready demon­strated on many oc­ca­sions and in many ways that he has all these char­ac­ter­is­tics. And what is worse, he vaunts them in an ugly, chest-thump­ing and most un­pres­i­den­tial man­ner.

Said Tatad, “He seems so deeply in love with his own vul­gar­ity that he is un­able to de­liver a point with­out punc­tu­at­ing it with an ex­ple­tive.”

As for his avowed aim of scrapping his coun­try’s his­toric al­liance with the US and re­plac­ing it with a se­cu­rity re­la­tion­ship with China and Rus­sia, it makes no po­lit­i­cal, eco­nomic or strate­gic sense at all.

Said the an­gry and be­wil­dered Ramos, “Are we throw­ing away decades of mil­i­tary part­ner­ship, tac­ti­cal pro­fi­ciency, com­pat­i­ble weaponry, pre­dictable lo­gis­tics and sol­dier-tosol­dier ca­ma­raderie just like that?”

It is true that the Philip­pines was once an American colony, but the US left vol­un­tar­ily in 1946, and later, at Manila’s be­hest, peace­fully with­drew in 1990 from its bases at Clark and Su­bic Bay.

In con­trast, Duterte’s new paramour, China, openly claims Philip­pine off­shore is­lands and has made ag­gres­sive moves in re­cent years to gob­ble up this ter­ri­tory.

When the Amer­i­cans, piqued by Duterte’s in­sults, said they may halt the sale of ri­fles to the Philip­pines, Duterte called them “mon­keys” and “fools”, and said it didn’t mat­ter, “we have plenty of home­made guns here.”

They also have a big home­made fool as their leader and one they would be well ad­vised to boot out asap.

Photo: EPA

Dur­ing a speech at the Beit Yaa­cov Sy­n­a­gogue south of Manila on Oc­to­ber 4, Filipino Pres­i­dent Ro­drigo Duterte ap­pol­o­gises for com­par­ing him­self to Hitler.

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