Duterte and China


There’s one topic on which President Duterte has admitted censoring his normally uninhibited language: China. “I’m sure, as your President,” he told his audience the other day at the inauguration of the new Davao International Container Port, “I would not lead you to trouble, or I would not cause you shame. There will be a time when I have to make a stand and I have to make it clear to China, ‘You know, every time you talk about sole ownership or even entitlements there (South China Sea), it’s something which is totally unacceptable to us.”

This is reassuring, and I’m certain the special treatment warms the heart of China. But, why can’t the President adopt the same restraint when dealing with international relations in general? This is a different arena from the national polity of which he is president; here he no longer speaks for himself but for the entire Filipino people.

As a nation, we will not always like what world bodies and their spokespersons may say about us. But, it is one thing to rebuff them in clear terms—indeed, there are sharp but diplomatic ways of doing so—and quite another to call them names, or question the reason for their existence.

What is to be gained—other than to gratify an impulse—from contemptuously calling a friendly country’s ambassador “gay”? Why call the United Nations “stupid” and “inutile” just because one of its rapporteurs has called our attention to the alarming human rights situation in the country? The Philippines is one of the original members of this world body, and, though it is far from being a world government, the UN is the closest thing humanity has to an international organization that is sworn to protect the world’s citizens from abuse, danger, and oppression.