MidEast OFWs react to Duterte’s 2nd SONA

DUBAI–Filipinos in the UAE gave a mixed bag of reactions on Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s second State of the Nation Address (SONA) in Manila Monday.

Some praised him for his straightforward speech while others criticized his bloody war on illegal drugs; others gave him high marks while some gave him a satisfactory grade, and yet others have raised concerns over the continuing war between government troops and Daesh-inspired Maute Group as well as the extension of martial law in Mindanao, in southern Philippines.

Solid Duterte supporters have expectedly shown their complete trust to President Duterte.

“I trust him in whatever action of government he wants to make,” Dubai resident Mosh Lafuente said. “I fully support him. His campaign on peace and order, including his war against illegal drugs, is really very tough but that is precisely what the Philippines needs,” he said.

Milo Torres added: I’m very happy to see him and hear him speaking from his heart with no hesitation to what he wanted to say. Martial law in Mindanao is really necessary and his call for the re-imposition of death penalty is the answer for those who committed heinous crimes.

“Duterte is not perfect and I give a satisfactory rating on his first year in office. He has done a good job on his war against drugs and, as a matter of fact, I never felt safer during my last vacation in our hometown,” added Darwin Grafil.

But many criticized Duterte’s martial law and the many extrajudicial killings in his year-old presidency.

“In his SONA, President Duterte said martial law is needed until the last terrorist is taken out of Mindanao,” Sahron Roy Tamano, former MarCom (Maranao Community) president, said. “But the war between government troops and Daesh-inspired Maute Group has been going on for more than two months and there is still no end in aerial bombings in Marawi and other rebel-occupied communities,” she said.

Tamano added: “I speak on behalf of Maranaos (people of Marawi) in the UAE and I can say that we are not entirely against the extension of martial law to quell the terrorists but what we are afraid of is what will happen next after this war. We are afraid that the military might abuse their authority. Some of us might be picked up on mere suspicion that we have relatives connected with the Mautes,” she said.

“Duterte has to keep his promise to end this armed conflict in Marawi soon because every day that this war is dragging on, more people – particularly the civilians – will die,” Tamano underlined.

Nhel Morona, Migrante Middle East coordinator, added: “The extension of martial law in Mindanao could lead to a military takeover of the government. Duterte is now showing that he is leaning to the Right and such move could pave the way for a possible declaration of martial law nationwide.”

“As proven in history, martial law does not bring peace and stability and can only lead to human rights violations,” he explained.

Morona also criticised Duterte for pulling the plug on the peace negotiations with the communists.

“President Duterte previously bragged that he’s a leftist president, but what happened? Peace talks are not just about the cessation of hostilities. At the negotiating table, both parties talk about the root causes of armed conflict and discuss fundamental social change. Now, the president has thrown this down the drain and he is on war footing,” Morona underlined.

On Duterte’s war on drugs, Filipino tech-entrepreneur Mannix Pabalan said: “The Duterte administration anchored its campaign to the presidency to clean up the country with illegal drugs. So far out of thousands killed already, we still have to see a drug lord get their day in justice. It is unfortunate that we still hear news that drug lords are feasting inside jail while they manufacture and operate their drug syndicates behind bars with the help of the men in uniform themselves,” Pabalan said. # (Angel L. Tesorero)

An earlier version of this report was published in The Khaleej Times (http://www.khaleejtimes.com/international/philippines/filipino-expats-reactions-on-dutertes-speech)