If “properly advised,” the tough-talking President Rodrigo Duterte can step up as regional leader of the 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) in time for the Philippines’ hosting of the summit next year, a political analyst said on Monday.
Clarita Carlos, a retired political science professor at the University of the Philippines, expressed optimism that the “intelligently courageous” Duterte would evolve into a statesman and take on the massive task of leading the regional bloc.
“Wala kasing leader ang Asean eh. When (Ferdinand) Marcos was there, alam mo si (former Singapore Prime Minister) Lee Kuan Yew, hindi ‘yan makasingit kay Marcos. Ngayon walang leader eh. Time natin ngayon. I-timing natin ngayon na by rotation, chairman tayo ng Asean, magpakitang gilas tayo diyan. I know if he’s (Duterte) properly advised, we can make it happen,” Carlos said over Radyo Inquirer 990AM.
(Asean doesn’t have a leader. When Marcos was there, Lee Kuan Yew couldn’t cut in. Now, there’s no leader. It’s our time now. Let’s time it now that by rotation, we’re the Asean chairman, so let’s show them what we’ve got. I know if Duterte properly advised, we can make it happen.)
READ: Duterte formally accepts PH hosting of Asean summit in 2017
“If we’re smart about it, really we should harness all our efforts towards getting on and taking on the leadership of Asean, lalo na ngayon nasa kalagitnaan tayo ng regional integration. I hope this President takes us to higher level or higher scope of regional integration,” she added.
Duterte has formally accepted the country’s chairmanship of the Asean next year, with the theme “Partnering for Change, Engaging the World,” which will coincide with the bloc’s 50th anniversary.
Despite Duterte’s controversial remarks against the United States and the United Nations, Carlos said she believes that the President “is going to temper his language” due to the “unintended consequences” of his statements.
“Our President has fire in his belly and he is his own person, and that is important. He is intelligently courageous… you can be foolishly courageous, but this one knows the limits of what he can or cannot do. The more important part, ‘pag nagkamali siya, nagso-sorry naman siya (when he makes mistakes, he apologizes),” Carlos said.
“There’s no domestic audience anymore. Everything that you say will be carried out by the international network. But that said, I don’t want him to be a hypocrite and change for anybody. Sabi natin, 71 na ‘to, hindi na ‘yan magbabago (Like we said, he’s 71, he won’t change anymore),” she added.
Duterte, who said he was “not a fan of the Americans,” earlier dared to throw expletives at Obama at the Asean summit in Laos should the latter lecture him on human rights and extrajudicial killings. This prompted the White House to cancel a planned bilateral meeting between the two leaders.
READ: Duterte: I’m no fan of US
But Carlos said the deeply rooted ties between the Philippines and US would remain firm despite Duterte’s remarks, including favorable comments to China amid a territorial dispute with the Asian powerhouse.
“If there’s any difference (in the relationship), it would be granular. It was a small story, pinalaki lang nang pinalaki. Ang lalim ng ating relationship—different players, mutual defense treaty, visiting forces, our military train with their military. I don’t think there’s a new normal. That’s an exaggeration,” she said.
“Nanlambot sa China (Growing soft towards China)? I don’t think so. He knows 25, 30 steps moving forward. So ‘wag nating menosin ‘yung tao na ‘to (Let’s not belittle him). He has a strategy and mukhang nakikita ko where’s he’s going…meaning China cannot just play around with him. This person is so wide-eyed about what’s going on, alam niya ‘yung geopolitics,” Carlos added.
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