Philippines’ Duterte: Indonesian President Joko Widodo’s ‘Main Complaint’ to Me Is America

President Rodrigo Duterte, left, talks to the media as his Indonesian counterpart Joko Widodo looks on during a joint press conference at Merdeka Palace in Jakarta, Indonesia, Friday, Sept. 9, 2016. AP/Dita Alangkara, file
AP/Dita Alangkara

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte, in remarks Wednesday supporting the return of capital punishment, claimed that his Indonesian counterpart Joko Widodo had complained to him in private meetings that the United States and the European Union were attempting to meddle in domestic affairs.

The remarks may prove problematic for Widodo, who had a friendly exchange with American President Donald Trump at last week’s G20 summit and invited him to visit his country.

Duterte referred to America’s role in the region as “odious.”

“Here, what makes it really more odious to us is we are being controlled by the US,” Duterte said. “Even the employees of the State Department, whatever the position may be, they just took it upon lightly to, you know, go out in the open and castigate us and criticize us.”

He went on to implicate Widodo in his remarks, which were supposed to be an address celebrating the anniversary of the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology in Camp Aguinaldo. “And for example, President Widodo, what is his main complaint when we talked to each other? It’s really America and … the rest of the EU,” Duterte claimed. “They would call you from time to time and insist that we do away with the death penalty in the statutes.”

Duterte reportedly went on to complain that the Philippines “criminals … are turning us into fools” because they know they cannot be executed for their crimes, “And to think that we are government and we have the power even to kill them to end this problem and yet … because we are a civilized society and we should place them in prison for those crimes that are not punishable by death.”

While both Duterte and Widodo support the use of capital punishment to deter extreme crimes—and both are facing a growing Islamic State insurgency—Widodo spent much of his time at the G20 summit attempting to bolster ties with the United States and encouraging bilateral exchanges. Duterte was not invited to the G20 summit, and his spokesman suggested he would not attend anyway because it was “not his style.”

Widodo, meanwhile, attended the summit and told Trump that his people “are only interested in one thing; when can you, personally, come to Indonesia? I can get into serious problems if I don’t bring back some good news for your millions of friends in Indonesia!”

Trump responded, “We’ll get there.”

The Jakarta Post adds that Widodo also “sought every avenue available to convince the United States and European Union members to lift their barriers against Indonesia’s key export commodity, palm oil.”

Duterte and Widodo convened recently to discuss combatting terrorism and drug crime. The two spoke on the phone in late June, when the Philippine presidential palace said the two “reaffirmed the need to step up operation to address threats posed by terrorism and violent extremism.”

“President Widodo reaffirmed Indonesia’s commitment to support the Philippines in countering terrorism including restoring peace and stability in the southern Philippines,” Duterte spokesman Ernesto Abella said at the time. “The President also welcomed the Indonesian President’s expression of commitment and emphasized the Philippine government’s full resolve to work closely together with Indonesia and likeminded states to address these issues.”

Prior to the current outburst, Duterte appeared to have warmed up to the United States. In April, the Philippine head of state specifically called for the United States to intervene in his country to help fight radical Islam. “As we fought together to stay above the enemy then, so we should help each other to address the threats that confront our societies, our region, and our world,” he said at the time.

Of Trump personally, Duterte has said, “I am okay with President Trump and I can assure him also of our friendship and cooperation. We have no problem there.”

In contrast, Duterte told President Barack Obama to “go to hell” during his tenure and called him a “son of a whore,” demanding all U.S. troops leave the country.

Follow Frances Martel on Facebook and Twitter.


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