Rodrigo Duterte has proven adept at hurling invective. But in a clip of a recent interview with Al Jazeera, the Philippine president was much more complementary of some of his counterparts on the world stage.
When Steve Chao, a correspondent and host for Al Jazeera, asked Duterte his thoughts on the US Democratic presidential nominee Hillary, the Philippine leader replied, “She’ll make a good president.”
Asked about Donald Trump, to whom the brash Philippine leader has been compared, Duterte said, “A good candidate.”
But Duterte offered perhaps the most effusive praise for Russian leader Vladimir Putin, whom the Philippine president called “my idol.”
“He has no illusions about himself. He knows that he was not trained for politics. Nor to be a statesman. He acts just like a president,” he said.
“My characterization of Putin,” Duterte added, “is how I describe myself.”
This is not the first time Duterte has spoken highly of the Russian president. In late October, when asked who he favoured in the US presidential election, Duterte demurred, eventually concluding his answer with, “My favourite hero is Putin.”
His warmth toward Putin is part of a realignment Duterte has pushed since talking office, in which he has repeatedly scorned the US and its longstanding relationship with the Philippines, instead embracing China and Russia.
“I’ve realigned myself in your ideological flow and maybe I will also go to Russia to talk to Putin and tell him that there are three of us against the world — China, Philippines, and Russia. It’s the only way,” Duterte said on October 20.
It’s not surprising to see Duterte praise Putin as an outsider, either. The Philippine president has cast himself in the same light, positioning himself as an the leader to upset the status quo and challenge an entrenched elite.
In reality, the Philippine leader is himself part of one of the Philippines many political dynasties. Duterte’s own family is closely related to two of the most powerful political clans in the Philippines’ Cebu province.
His father was mayor of Davao City, a major urban center in the southern Philippines, from 1959 to 1965. The younger Duterte then held that office or the vice mayorship for 30 years up until his election as president in 2016. With Rodrigo Duterte now governing in Manila, his daughter now holds the mayorship of Davao, with his son as vice mayor.
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