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Babe Romualdez, Philippine Star media executive,may ibinihagi tungkol kay Pres Duterte, Alamin!

Philippine Star columnist and media executive Jose Manuel Babe Romualdez shared his observation and experienced being with President Rodrigo Duterte during the 3-day state visit to Japan.

Read his complete article below:

"Before his trip to China, I met with the President and I was surprised at his invitation to join him. But unfortunately due to time constraints, I could not make it. Instead, I joined President Duterte for his two-and-a-half day official visit to Japan which turned out to be very enlightening, to say the least, as it gave me the opportunity to observe the president up close – both as the leader of our country and more importantly, as a private individual.

The president was supposed to make the visit to Japan first and then on to China. But for some reason – whether by accident or design – it went the other way around, with the president visiting China first. Naturally, the Japanese were a bit disappointed but being the way they are – they took it graciously.

Clearly, the Japanese are very wary about Chinese overtures to the Philippines, and the much-publicized visit of the president to China, where he was given the full nine yards red carpet treatment with numerous offers of assistance. It showed how far China is prepared to go as far as the Philippines is concerned. Nonetheless, the visit to Japan came at the right time, giving President Duterte a chance to do a diplomatic balancing act. The Japanese were very emphatic about the importance of maintaining our relationship with the United States. Japan is closely knit with the United States as far as military and security alliances are concerned.

The thing is, President Duterte is more comfortable dealing with the Japanese. He reassured his hosts that the Philippines will not engage in any kind of military alliance with the Chinese, where he pointed out that the China state visit was primarily for economic reasons. The meeting between Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and President Duterte was considered crucial for the Japanese because they wanted to assess firsthand where the president’s foreign policy is heading.

Presidential spokesperson Ernie Abella, who was present during the meeting, told me that the Japanese prime minister was extremely impressed with president Rody because of the latter’s passionate love for country, and how transparent he can be. As they say, what you see is what you get with the president – which largely explains why so many ordinary Filipinos appreciate his candor as he articulates what they think and feel in terms that they directly understand.

We can see the Japanese somehow appreciate that kind of approach. According to Ernie Abella, Prime Minister Abe was very flattered when president Duterte paid them the highest compliment when he said, in reference to the Japanese: “We are closer than brothers.” This affinity became apparent in the joint statement released after the extended bilateral meeting where the diplomatic language reflected everything that the US and European nations wanted to hear from President Duterte – primary of which is that “the two leaders emphasized the need to ensure maritime safety and security…” affirming that “maintaining open and stable seas is essential” and that the South China Seas hold sea lanes vital for global economic activity and viability. The statement also acknowledged the importance of a rules-based approach concerning the Permanent Arbitration Court ruling, with both leaders agreeing that maritime disputes can be settled without resorting to threats or use of force.

I came out of this trip convinced that the president has a clear, “calibrated” independent foreign policy path wherein he sincerely believes that being too close to the United States is not in our national interest. Nonetheless, I also see that he wants a good “cordial” relationship with the US.

“It’s time to carve our own identity and destiny as a nation,” the president said. And while there may be bumps along the way – he firmly believes that a little sacrifice will eventually redound to our benefit and uphold the independence of Filipinos.

Privately, President Duterte has a great sense of humor and is disarmingly amiable. But he is an out-of-the-box thinker who approaches things in a way that may be abstract to some. Hopefully, when the pieces start falling into place, we will see the logic behind his very unorthodox style.

Everybody knows he is extremely passionate about his effort to rid the country of drugs, criminality and corruption – which was his main campaign message and now the core focus of his domestic policy. Obviously, this message of change convinced 16 million Filipinos who voted him into office (although they say the actual number of votes could have been as much as 21 million).

The presidential trip to Japan also gave me a chance to observe the Cabinet secretaries around him, majority of whom he is very comfortable with because of their longstanding friendship like Sonny Dominguez, as well as Bingbong Medialdea and Bebot Bello. A pivotal player in the whole equation is Foreign Secretary Jun Yasay, a longtime personal friend of Rody Duterte. I’m told the president is a very good judge of character and adept at “reading people,” knowing who’s for real and who’s not. As the saying goes, “tell me who your friends are and I’ll tell you who you are.”

Many of my regular readers and numerous friends both here and abroad, including myself, were beginning to be skeptical and apprehensive about President Duterte. Having been connected to media and having observed presidents from Marcos to Aquino up to the current dispensation, my personal assessment is – we can all be reassured that President Duterte has a clear path where he wants to take our country. Needless to say, I am honored to be given the opportunity, in my own little way, to be of service to my country."


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