Fact Check: Cory Booker Calls Democratically Elected Philippine President ‘Dictator’

HOUSTON, TEXAS - SEPTEMBER 12: Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) speaks during the Democratic Presidential Debate at Texas Southern University's Health and PE Center on September 12, 2019 in Houston, Texas. Ten Democratic presidential hopefuls were chosen from the larger field of candidates to participate in the debate …
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Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) accused President Donald Trump of enjoying a better relationship with “dictators” than with democratically elected leaders, citing Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte as an example of one of the dictators.

Duterte was elected in 2016 by over 15 million people in an election that no major international observer or non-governmental organization questioned as illegitimate. Polls by national firms in the Philippines routinely find his national approval ratings upwards of 70 percent.

Booker did not clarify what circumstances surrounding Duterte’s rise to the presidency earned him the title of “dictator.”

“This is a president that has a better relationship with dictators like Duterte and [Russian President Vladimir] Putin that he does with [German Chancellor Angela] Merkel and [French President Emmanuel] Macron,” Booker proclaimed. “We are the strongest nation on the planet earth and our strength is multiplied and magnified when we unite with our allies.”

Booker did not explain in what way he distinguished the Philippines, which the United States is treaty-bound to defend militarily in the case of an attack, from the category of American allies. He also did not elaborate on the insinuation that the Philippine election system is as undemocratic and corrupt as Russia’s, where Putin’s regime regularly disqualifies candidates it does not like and uses police force to silence dissent.

Booker also chose not to discuss Duterte’s many comments disparaging the United States and threatening to break Manila’s alliance with Washington, which call into question the claim that Trump has a better relationship with Duterte than Macron or Merkel, who have not made similar threats.

Rodrigo Duterte has been president of the Philippines since 2016. He was elected in a vote that attracted outstanding citizen attention, bringing 81 percent of the voting population, or 40 million people to the ballot box. Of those, 15 million voted for Duterte, over 6 million more than the number of votes opponent Mar Roxas received.

Duterte’s approval ratings have remained high since his election, dipping only when he has refused to challenge China’s growing colonization of the South China Sea. Duterte’s approval ratings hit a record high in June, according to the Social Weather Stations polling firm, at 80 percent.

Social Weather Stations also found in a June poll that most Philippine respondents to its poll agreed with the statement “I can say anything I want, openly and without fear, even if it is against the [Duterte] administration.”
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