International

Filipino President Meets Trump for the First Time

Image: Newsweek

On June 30, 2016, Rodrigo Duterte was inaugurated as the Philippines 16th President. His campaign was one that had promised to end corruption, drug abuse, and deterioration of law and order. The following day, not too long after his inauguration, four people were shot dead for being suspected drug dealers. This was when Duterte’s mass-slaughtering of suspected drug dealers and users began, and when his popularity began to rise.

Rodrigo Duterte was born on March 28, 1945, in Maasin, Southern Leyte, Philippines. His father was a local mayor and governor, and his mother was a teacher and activist. As a child, Duterte misbehaved and was expelled twice. After learning to control his behavior he attended Lyceum of the Philippines University. It was at the Philippines University that he became influenced by Communist Party of the Philippines founder José María Sison. He studied law at San Beda College where it was reported that he shot a classmate of his. In 1988, he was elected mayor of Davao City where he used a vigilante group known as the “Davao Death Squad” to crack down on crime and drug abuse. It was estimated that his team killed more than 1,000 suspected drug dealers during a 20-year span. In 2015, Duterte announced that we would be running for President of the Philippines.

Duterte was an unlikely candidate for President, he was a seven-term mayor who was tough on crime and ran a weekly television show. During his presidential campaign, he had often promised to massacre criminals and even joked about raping an Australian missionary. Because of his unpredictability, thousands of Filipino’s showed support for his campaign and embraced the change he offered.  After a year in office, it was reported that 80 percent of Filipinos have “much trust” in their President despite numerous reports of human rights abuse. His unfiltered speeches often drew comparisons to United States President Donald Trump, who didn’t seem to be bothered by the comparison. In fact, President Trump offered an open invitation to Duterte to visit the White House back in April of 2017. This surprised many voters and drew outrage from human rights groups. Duterte, however, turned down the invitation, but the two had a chance to meet at the East Asia Summit and ASEAN Summit.While in the Philippines for the ASEAN Summit President Trump had a chance to meet Duterte for the first time. While there was very little detail on the meeting, the topic of human rights was expected to be brought up. It’s still unclear if it ever was discussed. Before the meeting between the two Presidents, there was an open session for reporters. One conversation between the two leaders stood out the most to reporters. Duterte said:

We will be discussing matters that are of interest to both the Philippines and … with you around, guys, you are the spies.

To that, Trump laughed, and Duterte responded with “You are.” It’s unclear if Trump was trying to be respectful to his host who has a long history of hatred towards journalists. In 2016 after the deaths of two Filipino journalists Duterte stated:
“Just because you’re a journalist, you are not exempted from assassination if you’re a son of a bitch. Freedom of expression cannot help you if you have done something wrong.”
This wasn’t the end of Trumps odd night with Duterte, later that night while attending a dinner Duterte performed a famous Filipino love song “on the orders of Donald Trump”. So far no statement has been released on whether or not Trump had actually requested the song. What we do know is that it was unorthodox, strange, weird, unheard-of, and just absurd.

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