“He could tell [his supporters] he was the spawn of the devil and it wouldn’t matter.”
Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte has had no problems bashing the United States. The 72-year-old leader called former President Barack Obama a “son of a whore” for criticizing his brutal crackdown on drug addicts. He described the previous US ambassador to the Philippines, Philip Goldberg, as “a gay son of a bitch.” And he’s also been explicit about ejecting US troops from his country.
“The special forces, they have to go,” Duterte said in September last year, just months after he assumed office. He made the same point again last October, telling reporters he wanted US troops out of the Philippines within the next two years.
These are bold demands, but it’s becoming increasingly clear that Duterte has no intention of actually trying to enforce them. Instead, his government has asked US special operations forces to help end a siege by the Abu Sayyaf Group, ISIS’s allied group in the southern Filipino island of Mindanao, that has already claimed more than 300 lives in the city of Marawi.
For most leaders, being caught faltering on a promise would be politically damaging, or at the very least embarrassing. But not for Duterte, who has a reputation for braggadocio. Perhaps that’s why he gets along so well with President Donald Trump, who has invited Duterte to the White House and even praised him for a brutal crackdown on drug dealers that has killed more than 8,000 people.
Duterte himself has said that he can’t be trusted for what he says. “In every five statements I make, only two are true while three are just jokes,” he said at a Bureau of Customs celebration in Manila last year.