Trump Philippines visit: Hundreds protest in Manila ahead of ‘warmonger’ US President's arrival

The country’s President Rodrigo Duterte just suggested he killed someone when he was 16

Mythili Sampathkumar
New York
,Jeff Farrell
Friday 10 November 2017 14:37
comments
Filipino protesters burn caricatures of Trump and Duterte prior to the US President's visit

Hundreds of people have taken to the streets of Manila to protest against US President Donald Trump, ahead of his visit to the Philippines.

Activists from a loose coalition of left-wing groups held placards with signs including “Ban Trump – Fight US Imperialist War and Plunder” as they marched to the US Embassy.

The activists were blocked by scores of the capital’s police kitted out in anti-riot gear just yards from the building. Minor scuffles broke out when protestors tried to break through the cordon.

But during the largely peaceful demonstration, protestors chanted anti-US slogans including, “Trump, not welcome’ and “Fight US imperialist war”.

Others carried out symbolic acts – such as splashing black paint across a poster of Mr Trump which branded him a “fascist”.

A separate protest was also held outside the city’s Trump Tower skyscraper. Members of the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan – an alliance of left-wing organisations – gathered there. They claimed the US President wanted to build more US military bases in the Philippines.

They also believed his visit would move the country closer to the US and form a relationship that could see the Philippines dragged into any conflict in the region, such as with North Korea.

“Trump represents the worst aspects of US imperialism,” the group told the Southeast Asia Globe. “He is right now the biggest threat to regional peace with his provocations against North Korea.”

The protests come ahead of the Mr Trump’s visit to the Philippines over the weekend, when he will meet with his Filipino counterpart President Rodrigo Duterte as part of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) trade summit.

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Just days before the US leader’s first visit, Mr Duterte has said he killed someone when he was just 16 years old.

Speaking to the Filipino community in Da Nang, Vietnam, to promote his drug war policies, he claimed: “At the age of 16, I already killed someone. A real person, a rumble, a stabbing. I was just 16 years old. It was just over a look. How much more now that I am President?”

Mr Duterte won last year’s presidential elections after promising to eradicate illegal drugs with an unprecedented crackdown that would see up to 100,000 people killed. Since he took office 16 months ago, police say they have killed 3,967 people. Another 2,290 people were murdered in drug-related crimes, while thousands of other deaths remain unsolved, according to government data.

Aides, however, have said the 72-year-old leader is prone to “hyperbole” but the stories of his past violence have resurfaced multiple times.

In a text message to the AFP, spokesman Harry Roque wrote about the fatal stabbing claim: “I think it was in jest. The [President] uses colourful language when [with] Pinoys (Filipinos) overseas.”

In the same Da Nang speech, Mr Duterte also said he would “slap” United Nations Special Rapporteur Agnes Callamard for criticising the drug war policies, saying they could amount to extrajudicial killings.

“I will slap her in front of you. Why? Because you are insulting me,” he said to the crowd. Mr Duterte has at various points denied inciting police or anyone else to kill, but is known for his incendiary language surrounding the war on drugs.

In 2016, Mr Duterte said that he would be “happy to slaughter” millions of drug addicts in the island nation and referred to former President Barack Obama as a “son of a whore” when the US leader criticised the policy.

Mr Trump and Mr Duterte also had an eyebrow-raising phone call in April of this year, when he told the Philippines leader that he thought he was doing a “great job” on the drug war.

Asian leaders and Mr Trump will likely remain silent about any accusations of human rights violations – despite a number of rights groups calling for it – with a number of other issues on the table.

Mr Duterte also commented to reporters that if the issue is brought up by Mr Trump, he would say: “You want to ask a question, I’ll give you an answer. Lay off. That is not your business. That is my business. I take care of my country and I will nurture my country to health.”

While Mr Trump is likely to find a relatively warm welcome in Vietnam, the Philippines could be a different matter. It was this time last year that Mr Duterte announced in Beijing that “America has lost now. I’ve realigned myself in your ideological flow.” He told his Chinese hosts that he may also “go to Russia to [say] there are three of us against the world: China, Philippines and Russia. It’s the only way.”

Mr Duterte later insisted what he had referred to in Beijing was not “a severance of ties,” and that he wasn’t cutting diplomatic relations. “What I was really saying,” he told reporters, “was a separation of foreign policy.”

Mr Duterte has promised to “deal with President Trump in the most righteous way,” when the two meet in Manila, but added that he will “listen to him, what he has to say”.

Joshua Kurlantzick, a Senior Fellow for Southeast Asia at the Council for Foreign Relations, told The Independent that though Mr Duterte may like Mr Trump, his views on America have been shaped through decades of anti-American sentiment.

He also noted that given the two leaders "bombastic" personalities "if [the relationship] goes downhill, it will go downhill very fast."

According to Mr Kurlantzick, Mr Trump's discussions will likely focus on Mr Duterte's "significant challenges" regarding counterterrorism in the Philippines as well as concerns about the South China Sea.

In July 2016, The Hague - in a case brought by the Philippines under former President Benigno Aquino III - found that "China's claims [sovereignty] are expansive and in no way legal under international law," he explained.

While the US and other southeast Asian nations want to "preserve freedom of navigation" in the hugely important body of water that accounts for nearly one-third of maritime global trade, Mr Duterte's approach is to be far more conciliatory to China than his predecessor had been, Mr Kurlantzick noted.

Mr Trump is currently on a 12-day Asia tour that has included visits to Japan, South Korea, and China. He is currently in Vietnam where officials say he may meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) Summit.

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