Duterte to talk about PH democracy in summit convened by US president

Published December 9, 2021, 4:18 PM

by Ellson Quismorio

Malacañang has confirmed President Duterte’s participation in the discussion during the United States (US)-hosted Summit for Democracy. But what will he talk about?

President Rodrigo Duterte (Malacañang photo)

“Magandang opportunity ito para maipakita ng Pangulo na ang Pilipinas ay isang demokrasya, nananatiling demokrasya, at ang mga Pilipino ay malaya at nananatiling demokratiko sa puso, sa isip, at sa gawa (This is a good opportunity for the President to show that the Philippines is a democracy, that it remains a democracy, and that Filipinos remain free and democratic in their hearts, minds, and actions),” Undersecretary Robert Borje, chief presidential protocol and presidential assistant on foreign affairs told state-run People’s Television Network in an interview Thursday, Dec. 9.

According to Borje, Duterte has prepared a “national intervention statement” which details the Philippine experience as a democratic nation.

The speech also contains pointers on what he must do as a leader of a democratic nation, as well as the challenges and hindrances that need to be overcome in order to become a stronger democracy.

No less than US President Joe Biden invited heads of state for the two-day virtual summit, which will begin Thursday, Washington time.

“The opening ceremony I understand will be at 8:00 or 9:00 in the morning, Washington DC time. And the President will join that, and afterwards, there will be specific windows para sa mga lider ng bansa para magsalita (for the leaders to talk),” Borje said.

“So, we don’t have the specific schedule yet but the President is willing, able, and ready to join in the conversation and the discussion, important discussion on democracy,” the Palace official noted. Manila is 16 hours ahead of Washington.

“Ang isa pang importanteng component dito ay alam natin na si Presidente ay patapos na ang termino (Another important component here is that the President is aware that his term is ending). And in the context of democracy, a democracy cannot be strong if there’s no peaceful and regular transfer of power. And i think this will figure very strongly and very prominently in the speech of the President,” Borje said.

“It’s an admission on the part of the President, and maybe re-affirmation of his strong belief, that it is his responsibility first and foremost bilang Pangulo na siguraduhin na may peaceful transition, dahil pag wala nito, hindi tayo matatawag na demokrasya (as the President to ensure a peaceful transition, because without it, we cannot be called a democracy). Ibig sabihin, authoritarian tayo (That would mean that we’re authoritarian).

“‘Pag hindi naman peaceful, honest, free, and credible ang elections (If the elections aren’t peaceful, honest, free, and credible), it calls into question the integrity of the electoral process and at the democracy,” he explained.

That Duterte was invited to join the democracy summit raised the eyebrows of some, given the Philippine leader’s bloody war against illegal drugs. This anti-drug drive has caught the attention of the United Nations (UN)-backed International Criminal Court (ICC).

For Borje, the summit itself is controversial. “I think it’s considered controversial because not all of the countries in the world were invited by the United States,” he said.

“Be that as it may, that’s the decision by the host. But I think, what is important to notice is that by participating in this summit, I don’t think it can be considered an ‘us versus them’ type of meeting, at least on the part of the Philippines,” he stressed.

China is among the notable exclusions in the Summit for Democracy’s participants.