Controversial Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte met with about 2,000 members of Hong Kong’s Filipino community last night, during an unofficial three-day visit, which yesterday saw critics gather in Tsim Sha Tsui hold to protest his bloody drug war.
Duterte, however, received a considerably more enthusiastic welcome at his speech at Kai Tak Cruise Terminal, where applause even prompted him to joke about setting up a “Iglesia ni Duterte” — the Church of Duterte, one attendee told Coconuts HK today.
The attendee, who, worried about an online backlash from Duterte supporters, requested not to use his name, said the president repeated his “old line,” telling overseas Filipino workers could home to a “safer Philippines” and didn’t have to worry about corrupt airport staff putting a bullet in their luggage, a reference to a scam where security staff planted live ammunition in bags to extort cash.
Duterte also touted a deal with Beijing to recruit Filipinos to teach English in China and encouraged the migrant workers to apply for the program, reiterated his campaign against drugs — which has seen thousands killed in extrajudicial killings — and spent time promoting cabinet members, like his special assistant Christopher “Bong” Go, ahead of Senate elections next year.
As reported this morning, he also offered an apology for several Hong Kong deaths in a 2010 hostage crisis.
The recall of popular labor attache Jalilo Dela Torre — who was removed from his position midway through his term in late March — was not raised, leading many to go home “disappointed.”
The move by Manila prompted outrage among Hong Kong’s Filipino domestic workers, who feared it was linked to the outspoken attache’s vocal opposition to human traffickers and unscrupulous employment agencies.
Rodelia Villa, a domestic worker and contributor to Filipino community newspaper The Sun, said the failure to address illegal recruitment practices and human trafficking was noted by many.
“There are many overseas Filipino workers issues that need to be discussed. We wanted to let the Philippine government know our concerns, especially about recruitment agency fees in the Philippines and Hong Kong, human trafficking and illegal recruitment.”
“But there was nothing… we didn’t have a chance to raise questions and the program was more focused on dance, songs and presentation.”
Prior to arriving at the venue, which was guarded by heavy security, Duterte — who remains hugely popular in the archipelago nation despite international criticism of his human rights record — paraded his man-of-the-people approach by visiting the Hung Hom outlet of a Filipino fast food chain Jollibee.
According to the SCMP, flanked by family members, aides and officers, Duterte showed up shortly before 6pm and invited a domestic helper dining there to chat over chicken.
In a video of the exchange, posted to social media by Philippine Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano, the leader promised to help the woman visit her family back home.