Duterte: Western Leaders Calling for a ‘Wall’ Hypocrites, Philippines Will Take Migrants

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte listens to a question from reporters at Manila's International Airport, Philippines on Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2016. Duterte is set to fly to Bangkok to pay his respects to late Thailand's King Bhumibol Adulyadej. He then goes to Malaysia for an official visit. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)
AP Photo/Aaron Favila

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte has vowed to take in any refugees seeking to make a home in his country, calling Western nations “hypocrites” for promoting human rights abroad but expressing concerns about migrant overflow in nations unprepared to take them in.

Speaking to Al Jazeera, Duterte defended his controversial “war on drugs” — in which he has encouraged civilians to kill drug suspects without police intervention — and referred to the “hypocrisy” of Western nations who have warned Duterte to adhere to international human rights norms on extrajudicial killing. Of refugees, Duterte said, “I say send them to us. We will accept them. We will accept them all. They are human beings.”

“They can always come here, and will be welcome here, until we are filled to the brim,” he added.

He did not specify whether he would take any particular set of refugees: Syrians fleeing the civil war; Middle Eastern Christians and Yazidis fleeing Islamic State persecution, or economic migrants from parts of Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Instead, Duterte called out Western leaders seeking to build “a wall” to keep refugees out.

Whether Duterte would accept Arab refugees as part of his overall call for displaced individuals to flood the Philippines is unclear due to remarks he has made condemning Muslim missionaries who promulgate Islam in southern Mindanao, the island Duterte calls home. “Some parts of the islands of Mindanao, there are white people. I suppose they are Arabs, and they are here as missionaries,” Duterte said in August. “They are not armed, but they are here for indoctrination, that’s what I’m afraid of.”

Duterte has referred to the Islamic State’s Philippines branch, Abu Sayyaf, as a “disease” that he has promised to “eat.”

Duterte nonetheless condemned the West for similar concerns about Islamic fundamentalism proselytized through migrants. “These guys! I really do not know what is on their minds,” he laments in the interview. “They seem to be very accommodating on human rights, but suddenly they change course and say ‘Oh no you stay there,'” he protested. “They build a wall, barbed wire, and now the hypocrisy is there, staring at us eyeball to eyeball.”

The last remark appears to be a barb at American President-elect Donald Trump, who famously vowed to build a wall on the southern border of the United States and “make Mexico pay for it.” It represents an about-face for Duterte, who appeared to cheer Trump’s victory last week. “We both curse. For any small reason, we curse. We are kind of similar,” he said of Trump last week. Duterte did vow not to “shut up” about the United States because of the election, however.

In a separate part of the Al Jazeera interview, Duterte rails against those who condemn his use of extrajudicial killings against drug suspects. “I am pissed off by so many calls and people telling me I ‘should not put so many people to death,'” he argues. “If I look like a bad boy to them, I don’t really give a shit.”

Duterte’s new proposed open door policy will represent a shift from his predecessor, Benigno Aquino. Aquino considered a proposal to allow more refugees into the country — particularly refugees stranded in detention centers in Australia — but ultimately recanted. “Australia can recognize that we do have a significantly bigger population than they do. We have challenges to meeting the needs of our people right now. We would want to assist but there are limitations to how far we can assist,” he lamented.