I am sure Filipinos here and abroad will be all eyes and ears when President Rodrigo Duterte, on his first foreign trip, will meet with US President Barack Obama during the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit on Sept. 6 in Laos.
With Duterte becoming a worldwide notorious figure not only with the killings resulting from his relentless fight against illegal drugs that has ruffled the feathers of human rights advocates but also with his abrasive language calling, among others, the US ambassador to the Philippines a ‘gay son of a whore’ and the UN as ‘stupid’ for criticizing his controversial war on illegal drugs.
After perhaps the handshake and the reaffirmation of the strength and depth of the US-Philippine treaty alliance and the extraordinary ties between the Filipino and American peoples, it is very probable that the contentious issue of human rights violation and killings will be brought up by Obama, the US being the bastion of freedom and democracy.
It is interesting to note, however, that Duterte has already made it known, and perhaps the same have been picked up by American correspondents, that before Obama opens up with the human rights issue that the latter must listen to him first.
“They must understand the problem first before we talk about human rights. I would insist, listen to me: this is what the problem is, then we can talk,” Duterte said in an interview.
Knowing Duterte I don’t think he will be intimidated by Obama’s stature and therefore must be granted his wish or the meeting will be unproductive.
This is the first time we have a leader who knows where he stands and can ably defend himself, if and when being bullied.
I think we are about to see an acknowledgement by foreign leaders that Duterte is not a pushover, but rather a strong-willed leader of a third world country being looked upon as one who could implement political, economic and social reforms for the country to sustain development and improve the quality of life of Filipinos.