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Rodrigo Duterte interview: Death, drugs and diplomacy

In an exclusive interview, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte discusses his war on drugs and foreign policy.

Scroll to watch part two of the interview

It’s been about 100 days into the presidency of Rodrigo Duterte. 

Since he took power, the Philippine president has overseen the killing of more than 3,500 people in his war on drugs, offended world leaders and strained relations with the US.

In an exclusive first interview since he was sworn in, we talk to Duterte about his controversial war on drugs and foreign policy – including deteriorating relations with the United States and potentially warming relations with China.

“We have three million drug addicts, and it’s growing. So if we do not interdict this problem, the next generation will be having a serious problem … You destroy my country, I’ll kill you. And it’s a legitimate thing. If you destroy our young children, I will kill you. That is a very correct statement. There is nothing wrong in trying to preserve the interest of the next generation.” 

But Duterte admits that children and innocent people have also been killed in the bloody crackdown, and promises to investigate these extrajudicial killings, but he also calls them “collateral damage”.

When asked about the contested South China Sea, the Philippine president says:

“We will not give up anything there; it’s an entitlement … You can only negotiate to prevent a war … They invited me for talks, and I will go.”



In response to why the Philippines is “pursuing a different paradigm” in its relationship with the United States, Duterte explains that his disaffection with the American leadership is related to US criticism of his war on drugs.

“Had America just followed the normal procedure of calling the attention of a country to a certain violation, that would affect the laws of humanity, it could have just followed the due process, which is normally – according to everybody – going to the United Nations, airing a grievance and demanding an investigation. It should begin in the internal body of the United Nations because we are, or the Philippines is, a member of the United Nations.”

Conflicting reports about the military ties between the United States and the Philippines have also plagued the media of late. Without finality, Duterte confirms the potential cease of several long withstanding agreements between the two countries, including military exercises, the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement, and even the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty.

As controversy continues to follow the Philippine president, be it whilst publicly cursing US President Barack Obama, branding former Philippine president and dictator Ferdinand Marcos as “the best” the country has ever seen, or being in favour of “emergency” shortcuts to execute “democratic” decisions, only one thing seems certain: in Duterte’s view, none of his decisions thus far warrant any unfavourable comparisons.

“For the life of me, I have yet to remember a thing that I did that would indicate that I have the traces of being dictatorial. From day one.”

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