There seems to be two opposing world views on Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte.
The Western World sees him as a threat to democracy, a budding dictator, and in the words of the U.N. High Commissioner on Human rights, a “murderer.”
The Philippines’ Asian neighbors see a different Duterte: an emerging regional leader poised to liberate his country from the shackles of oligarchy, criminality, corruption and poverty.
He commands the highest respect from the leaders of China, Japan, Singapore, Vietnam, Cambodia, Indonesia and Malaysia. During his official state visits to these countries, he received a rock star treatment never before accorded a Philippine leader.
Duterte has been named “Person of the Year” by a Chinese magazine,
Yazhou Zhoukan, “the Time magazine of the Chinese-speaking world,” in recognition of his independent foreign policy, his distancing away from the US, and forging closer ties with China.”
In an opinion piece published by Japan Times, Duterte tops the CNN list for “best Year” in Asia:
Best Year: Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte
Not without controversy, Duterte tops our CNN list for “best year” in Asia by winning his nation’s presidency in a landslide last May and subsequently upending, rethinking and reshaping the state of affairs — for good or for bad — at home and abroad.
Since taking office on June 30, the former mayor of Davao City has launched an unsparing, and bloody, war on crime and drugs that has brought mounting human rights criticism and concerns over extrajudicial killings.
The tough-talking leader also has declared a “separation” from the U.S., its long-term ally, and moved to put aside territorial disputes in favor of business deals with China — this, despite an international tribunal ruling in the Philippines’ favor in July over territories in the South China Sea.
In early December, the Social Weather Stations survey firm had Duterte enjoying a 77 percent approval rating as Filipinos continue to put their trust in their controversial president. For now, the Philippine leader’s unconventional moves seem a harbinger of things to come.
This is no pivot to China, but a disruption of the old normal. Duterte ended 2016 seeking to rebalance his nation’s ties, improve the life of the average Filipino and make the Philippines — a one-time economic and trade powerhouse — great again. And for that, Asia’s best year goes to Duterte.