I DECIDED to support President Rodrigo Duterte, despite the fact that I did not vote for him and even if I have fundamental differences with his war on drugs.
This is simply because I saw in his bravado, all captured in his crass, vulgar hyperboles, a man who had the courage to stand up to the leaders of strong and powerful countries. In fact, even if I was scandalized when he cursed the Pope, a part of me was amazed at his audacity that apparently spared no one, or at least that’s what I thought.
As a country, we have always been treated like a doormat, a distant outpost, a loyal server by our stronger allies. Ours is a history of being seen as a dependent economy by our creditors and aid-givers. Ours is a reliable vote that can be counted on by the United States, as we continued our post-colonial existence as some kind of an indicator country for US interests. Wherever the US went, there went the Philippines too. And it is something that pained me so much.
It is precisely because of this that I simply endured and shrugged off many of the President’s imperfections and flaws, and willingly staked my name and friendships, even my employment, if only to support a President who inspired me to hope that we will become truly a sovereign country with an independent foreign policy. I even celebrated his diplomacy as a form of creative destruction, where his boldness would disrupt the familiar patterns in which we have found ourselves embedded and implicated, even destroying this, if only to create new ways of engaging our partners. And I saw it as a clarion call that would usher in a new identity for us as an autonomous, independent and sovereign player. I imagined a Republic that would be taken seriously and be respected as an equal. While pragmatically such would have been a tall order, there was no doubt in my mind then that the President would lead and inspire us. Watching him curse President Obama and the Pope, leaders of two entities to which we have loyal but contentious relationships, greatly impressed on me the hope that indeed change had come.
I take sovereignty seriously. I treasure the day we will embrace a truly independent foreign policy. This is precisely why I supported the President’s decision to withdraw from the International Criminal Court (ICC). It is less because it is singling out the President, but more because the actions of Fatou Bensouda, its Gambian chief prosecutor, have the potential of amounting to an assault on our sovereignty. I am offended by the possibility that we will be treated like a failed state that is unwilling and unable to investigate and prosecute crimes listed in the Rome Statute.