Press Release
September 23, 2020

Dispatch from Crame No. 918:
Sen. Leila M. de Lima on Duterte's Address to the UNGA


It is almost unbelievable that Duterte was able to behave in his pre-recorded address to the UN General Assembly last night and stuck to his written speech. But inasmuch as he did not have a live audience during recording, we all know that this is not the Duterte that we watch in his late night show every Monday. That is why we also highly doubt if what he said was his own, or simply what was fed to him.

The only indication that it was Duterte speaking before the UN last night was his usual attack on human rights defenders and his claim of supposed "weaponization" of human rights by the international community when they condemn his policy of extrajudicial killings against the poor.

However, the indications that it is not the Duterte we know who was speaking last night are several.

Most surprising was his sudden invocation of the 2016 UNCLOS arbitral ruling on the South China Sea. After four years of betraying the hard-won UNCLOS decision in order to curry favor with China, he now asks the UN to recognize it as part of international law.

Duterte did not have to ask the UN that. The UN recognizes the validity and legal force of international arbitral awards as a matter of international law. It is only Duterte who has renounced it in his four years of kowtowing to China. This volte- face before the UN and the whole world is therefore highly dubious and smacks of cavalier double-speak on a matter of foreign policy that he has long decided in favor of China. It is now too late for Duterte to act as the defender of the arbitral award and Philippine sovereignty after he has repeatedly bowed to China as its number one lapdog in Asia and the whole world in the past four years.

He also had a lot to say about law, justice, and human rights. This is not what we hear Duterte say before a Filipino audience. We know that he hates human rights and has in fact instigated the summary execution of the poor countless times. He claims that Marawi must be rebuilt after the 2017 Maute siege. But we know that his regime has done nothing to rebuild Marawi three years hence. He also had a lot to say about climate change and the environment. But in reality his government has just dumped tons of harmful dolomite on Manila Bay as a window-dressing gimmick to counter public dismay over his regime's floundering response to the pandemic amidst corruption scandals in PhilHealth and other key government agencies.

I have only one word to describe the Duterte who spoke last night before the UNGA. Plastic. As fake as the dolomite beach his government wasted millions on in the middle of a pandemic.

(Access the handwritten copy of Dispatch from Crame No. 918, here:

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