‘No more cursing, or I’ll bring this plane down,’ Duterte hears God say

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte © Kim Kyung-Hoon
Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte has once again surprised the media – this time by doing a 180 and swearing off swearing. The leader says God had threatened to bring down his plane if he did not change his ways.

The epiphany came to the Philippines leader on a trip back from Japan, where he had held a historic meeting with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. The official three-day visit is the latest in his strategy of inching closer to his regional neighbors, China and Japan.

The leader, who called both Pope Francis and US President Barack Obama “son of a whore” or “son of a bitch” on separate occasions, decided on Thursday on the plane home to part ways with the quality that really made him a man of the world.

He told reporters the revelation came to him late at night, while everyone on the plane had been asleep, and he was looking out the window. Suddenly, a voice interrupted his thoughts.

“While on up there on my way here, I heard a voice telling me to stop swearing or the plane will crash in midair, and so I promised to stop,” he said, according to the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

Why God has decided to intervene now is anyone’s guess: Duterte seemed to be on a lucky streak, striking deals that are beneficial to the Philippines economy and putting his foot down on the issue of US troop placement on the nation’s soil.

But “a promise to God is a promise to the people,” the President said. Nevertheless, he did not discount the possibility of cursing the US and the EU in future, when asked. The president was met with applause when he delivered his vow fresh off the plane in his hometown Davao. But he said “Don’t clap too much or else this may get derailed.”

The Philippines and the United States had enjoyed more than 60 years of partnership, with the former being the closest US ally in the region, next to Japan. Both countries had also been on the same page about Chinese territorial expansion in the South China Sea, with US playing the role of protector to all of China’s rivals there. But Duterte has recently been in talks with China to secure fishing rights to the resource-rich Scarborough Shoal, which the Chinese have held on to since 2012 and refuse to share with anyone. This was discussed alongside multiple other agreements relating to economic cooperation and investments into the Philippines. Later came the visit to Tokyo – a Washington ally – where the two leaders discussed Japan’s investment into Mindanao, a resource-rich island containing large deposits of gold, iron, copper, aluminum, oil, and natural gas.

When Duterte came to power at the end of June last year, he set the country on a course away from the US – a cooling of relations that reached a crescendo when Washington tried to lecture Manilla on human rights. After several warnings that the US shouldn’t treat the Philippines like “a dog with leash,” Duterte had made good on his promise to seek closer cooperation with Asia, which includes Beijing – a long-standing Washington rival.

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