‘I’ve got a friend who has plenty of weapons’: Philippines’ strongman Duterte to RT (EXCLUSIVE)
RT: So you’ve become world famous for quite a number of sharp statements, and some people even went so far as to say they were politically incorrect. Why did you choose this style of conducting politics?
Rodrigo Duterte: Well, I never ... that was not an ambition, I never decided to be an international figure. I wanted to [just] be a mayor here, but fate somehow changed the course of my life.
Now, foreign policy. Fundamentally, the foreign policy of the Philippines follows the foreign policy of the United States. Why? Well, we were occupied by Spain, made their colony for 400 years. Then, when the Spaniards lost the Philippine-American war, one of the concessions that was asked of the Spaniards was to concede real estate in the Pacific, and that would include Guam, that’s why they’d have the Spaniard name. And the Philippines very similar – only a name, because they were occupied also by the Spaniards.
But we were ceded to the Americans and they occupied my country for 50 years. Finally we had our independence after the bloody revolution and after several massacres ... somewhere in Samar, it’s in Visayas, a high-ranking American officer was killed, so they massacred the whole town. Ten and above were all put to death. ... They didn’t bother to apologize for.
RT: But at the same time America helped Philippines gain its independence in 1946 after Japan’s occupation and got away. So do you think in a way you should be grateful to them? Or do you think that the West is using their allies?
RD: Well, if you were an American in front of me I would say no to you. You want me to thank you for occupying my country? You lived on the fat of the land for 50 years. You give us our independence. ... But I’m sorry, if the previous precedence was just called out. And follow up what America says, not me. Not me because I know my history. And I still have this hurt.
RT: Was that hurt what made you call president Obama what you called him?
RD: No. ... I do not like to be ordered. But you know, even in the matter of the purchase of arms we were negotiating until a few days. And one senator stood up and said that ‘Philippines has a record of human rights violations. We will suspend arms.’ Well good, we have friends already. Good friends. You know, we were [previously not so friendly] with China because of the well, you know, so many issues, but not in the South China Sea ...so I decided to just visit the ASEAN countries of which we are a member, and just to introduce myself. I mean, get you in the corner, you know, “I'm President Duterte.”
Finally I reached the shores of China and we had a very good talk. And you know president Xi Jinping – he’s really a great guy. And I realized a little bit that somehow we'd missed out [on] chances in our history.
RT: So what sort of partnership do you envision between the Philippines and China..?
RD: We never talked about a military alliance. And I had a talk in that meeting in Laos for the ASEAN. I personally requested to speak with the prime minister of Russia, Medvedev. So I told him my problem, and I said, you know, “I am not asking for anything. We can survive with nothing. But I just want you to know that they want to be closer to you and China because I do not like what is happening to us.”
You know, every time, and even before – every time the United States criticizes us or reprimands us they always connect it with the ... sentence: “If you do not do this, if you do not do that, if you do this and we do not like that we, will cut the assistance.” Every time. Several past presidents.
Do you know that America is not the signatory of the International Criminal Court? And here is a guy threatening me with prosecution…then you see ‘extrajudicial killing’. What is that word? That is a word of a criminal justice system being adopted by the human rights commission. So if you are not a member, what’s your business in mentioning those words? You couldn’t even define that because you are not a member – and here you are threatening me. And I said “go ahead.” It is never a crime to protect a race. It is self-preservation thing. And you trivialize that with a prosecution and mentioning about the cutting of the assistance that we get.
RT: So, clearly you’re leaning closer to...
RT: ..an alliance more towards China and Russia, rather than [with] the US.
RD: As of now. Well, we didn’t have the opportunity to meet again, even in Peru… I do not know who was waiting [for] whom, but I just had my time there waiting for the conference to begin.
But I made friends. And you know I have noticed that – I might offend him, but tell him no – no [offense] – I’ve noticed that President Putin, he seldom smiles. He just doesn’t smile too much. You know when we were together, and during the last day he saw me, he went out of his way to shake hands with me. I said, “Mr. President, how are you? Fine!” So, I went to my place. I found out that on my right side was the president Papua New Guinea, and on my left side was the president, so I greeted him, so we shook hands again.
And when the conference ended, as we stood up I said “I have to go ahead, Mr. president”. Then somebody… tapped me on the shoulder, so I had to talk to, also talk to some other leaders. But again, when I was ready to go out, I just said to him “Mr. president, I’ll go ahead.” And then he smiled again and shook my hand and said “I will wait for you in Russia”. Yes, of course, but not now, because I can’t stand cold.
In all of our talks, I never said that “I want this” or “I want that.” I just also told President Putin, you know, that I just want to be friends, to show to the world that I am not limited to a few countries, that I have to interact with the rest of the world, because we are a sovereign state. And we have to do business and to have diplomatic relations with everybody. And if there is good to it, then I thank God.
RT: Sir, since you mentioned business and cooperation, can I find out what the status of the defense cooperation agreement is between the Philippines and Russia right now?
RD: I am not ready for military alliances because we have a treaty that was signed in the 50s. But I am ready to cooperate with my new friends – China and Russia – to make this world more peaceful. US has decided to cancel the procurement of weapons. And I said, “I have a friend who has plenty.” ...
RT: But polls in your country show that most of your citizens support an alliance with the US.
RT: So how are you planning to…
RD: That’s because, because having been a colony for 50 years. It should not surprise you. It’s ingrained in the genealogy of the Filipinos. But, little by little I’ve been telling them, I made this decision because… I think the Filipinos know the reason why in their hearts. Because I have been very vocal and used the strongest terms, when I said “We are not a nation of beggars. We will survive without your assistance. Please, stop it.”
If you want to prosecute me – fine, come up with the evidence. But I will not allow the rapporteur of the UN to face me and ask me questions as if I’m a criminal. It would be on TV, maybe I can invite you again as one of the resource persons, I can invite everybody and I will tell the rapporteur: “Do not ask questions me only. I will ask you also.”
Do not interfere in the affairs of my country, internal affairs. We have a serious problem of 4 million drug addicts. I would need, we computed it, I would need about two trillion [Philippine pesos] ($40bn). We will never have that money in our lifetime. And yet I have this problem. And here you are complaining about the deaths of 3,000. You don’t even know who were killed … especially the people with the plastic tape around their body. If you are a policeman, why would you do that? Why waste your time wrapping?.. why don’t you just simply shoot the idiot … we are not into, I said, killing people on bended knees. What would be the point?
RT: Last question, since we have to wrap it up and I can. If I can go back to the US for the last one. You appeared to soften your criticism when it comes to the US after the US presidential elections, after it became clear that Donald Trump would be the next president. Do you think that you could be friends with Donald Trump and that your relationship will change?
RD: Well, I’m not at liberty to make it public, but there are feelings now, even retired generals … they wrote me a long letter, and the last sentence is that, “there is no doubt in our minds that we can be great friends again and reset the whole thing.”
That was my slogan, sloganeering when I was campaigning – changes. I promised no corruption, and [that] it will happen. There will be no corruption in my government. Then I said I will put an end to drugs because it has compromised the next generation of people, the young ones who are hooked into drugs. The third is that I will have to stop criminality so that people can come here and visit.
In Davao city you can go anywhere at this hour and nobody will bother you ... I’ve told policemen (I became mayor many, many years ago), “I want you to ask your wife and daughter to walk the streets of Davao until morning time. If nothing happens to them – that is the standard we want for Davao city.”
And I forced the issue. And I told the criminals, again, in the city, “you criminals, drug addicts – get out of my city. Do not destroy my country, because I will kill you.” And I told the other guys “Do not, you know, destroy.” Because drugs were already flooding. But I kept my high profile against drugs. And the first to grow exponentially in the years in between was Davao City, which had a domestic, a local [supply]. At one time we hit it at something like nine [drug labs], which is really very, very high.
That is why you have a city that is clean, no criminals, drugs if at all. Because really the boundaries are porous and you cannot stop anybody from entering the city because this is not a fascist state. But you have to consider, too, the citizens.
But for as long as I am president, to the very last day, I want the last drug-pusher out and I want the drug lords killed. So, I prefer that they fight the police … but I said, if they do not want any fight, you can’t just shoot them right there. What’s the point? Why invite trouble and invite cases? It’s only when they fight it out with the police. But you can always shoot them if they fight, in a violent way, threatening to place your life in jeopardy.
But I never said “do it purposefully, like a vigilante. Tie their backs, ask him to kneel down and kill them.” That’s a gangster style. You cannot be a president of your country if you do that.