MANILA–Malacañang on Wednesday assailed the New York Times (NYT) article portraying President Rodrigo Duterte as a ‘thug’ and a ‘brutal strongman’ and said that the op-ed piece is nothing more than a ‘well-paid hack job’ out to embarrass the President and intimidate him over his independent foreign policy.
In a statement, Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella slammed the NYT article as a “cynical and unfair narration of President Duterte’s rise to power in the context of violence.”
“One would expect more from The New York Times. Their article, ‘Becoming Duterte: The Making of a Philippine Strongman,’ sounds like a well-paid hack job for well-heeled clients with shady motives,” the Palace official said.
In the said NYT article published March 21, Richard Paddock described Duterte as a man who” relishes the image of killer-savior.”
“Mr. Duterte and his friends have long cultivated legends of his sadistic exploits, like throwing a drug lord from a helicopter and forcing a tourist who violated a smoking ban to eat his cigarette butt at gunpoint. It is a thuggish image that Mr. Duterte embraces,” the NYT correspondent wrote.
“Whether Mr. Duterte has done what he says –the killings he claims to have carried out are impossible to verify –he has realized his gory vision in national policy. First as a mayor, now as president of the Philippines, he has encouraged the police and vigilantes to kill thousands of people with impunity,” Paddock said.
Abella pointed out however that the NYT report “deliberately fails to mention the many initiatives the President made when he was Davao City mayor.”
“Davao City, under the leadership of President Duterte as mayor, is hailed as one of the safest cities in the world where residents follow an anti-smoking and a midnight alcohol ban,” he said.
“Moreover, Mr. Duterte ensured that Davao City Hall is a responsive government known for its efficient delivery of government services,” Abella added.
He also enumerated some of the notable programs initiated by Duterte in his home city.
While Davao City mayor, Duterte established a one-stop shop for business permits; a Central Communication and Emergency Response Center, or Central 911, which links residents who need assistance with emergency resources of the government; provided a Lingap Para sa Mahirap health financial assistance; and free primary and secondary education in public institutions as well as access to college education for underprivileged but deserving students among others.
The Palace official also took exception over the NYT report vilifying Duterte’s “coarse manner” and “outrageous comments.”
“President Duterte does not engage in western liberal niceties to promote his agenda, to rebuild a nation with compromised internal structures,” he stressed.
“He is a rough-hewn outsider who vowed to reduce poverty; restore trust in the government by addressing crime, corruption and illegal drugs; and reinforce peace agreements with ethnic Moros who experienced historic injustice, and the CPP/NPA/NDF who have been fighting for social justice for decades,” he said.
The Presidential Spokesperson –who was erroneously named in the article as Duterte’s Press Secretary –said that overall, the article looked more like a subtle jibe to intimidate the President over his independent foreign policy.
Since taking office, Duterte has veered away from the United States, the Philippines’ historical ally, and pursued warmer relations with China and Russia.
“One gets the feeling NYT is not interested in presenting the whole truth, only that with which they can bully those who attempt an independent foreign policy,” Abella said.