Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte paid tribute to one of his allies, former House Speaker and President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo during an “appreciation dinner” held at The Manila Hotel yesterday. Duterte sang Arroyo praises and called her a “true living icon in Philippine politics,” but also jokingly confessed that he’s had people killed for her.
Duterte said in a speech that when he was Davao City mayor, he was basically working for Arroyo, who was then Philippine president. His praises for Arroyo took a dark and violent turn, though, when he joked that he used to have people killed to please her.
“I was really working for her (Arroyo). Of course, I didn’t have anyone killed because she ordered me to do so. I had them killed because I think she wanted me to,” Duterte said.
Duterte has been linked to extrajudicial killings even before he became president. In September 2016, a man named Edgar Matobato accused him of having ties with the Davao Death Squad, a vigilante group in Davao City that allegedly killed street children, petty criminals, and drug dealers. A self-confessed member of the squad, Matobato alleged that Duterte also ordered them to kill his political enemies.
Duterte, however, has denied knowing Matobato.
Arroyo ended her final term as a congresswoman for Pampanga in June and now plans to retire. Prior to her stint at the House of Representatives, she was Philippine president from 2011 to 2010. Her presidency was marked by numerous controversies including election fraud and corruption, which eventually led to her arrest from her hospital room in 2011. However, she was acquitted by the Supreme Court on July 2016, shortly after Duterte took office.
The two have been allies for decades and they openly discussed their close relationship last night.
Duterte credited Arroyo for “carrying out decisive actions [as President] even if such actions would prove to be unpopular.”
“Indeed, her intuitive and hands-on leadership has carried our nation forward, especially during trying times,” he added.
Duterte also said that Arroyo’s extensive experience as an economist became “crucial in laying down the foundations of our country’s steady economic growth during her term, the effects of which are still felt today and will still be felt in the years ahead.”
“During her impressive 27-year career in the legislative and executive branches of government, she became a major figure and was instrumental in crafting policies that made our bullish economy possible,” he added.
Arroyo returned the favor and thanked Duterte for getting the court to acquit her of corruption and electoral fraud. She maintained that the cases were made up by her successor President Benigno Aquino III. She also thanked Duterte for the opportunity to work as Speaker of the House and for supporting her candidacies when she ran for senator, vice president, and president.
Duterte and Arroyo have been allies for decades. Duterte even remained on Arroyo’s side despite a coup attempt against her in 2007.
Arroyo, meanwhile, is one of Duterte’s most vocal defenders. Most recently, she defended him from critics who called him out for failing to criticize China over the controversial West Philippine Sea boat sinking incident. She said Duterte knew what he was doing and that he was protecting the country’s interest by not confronting Beijing.
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