In a rare rebuke by an ally, outgoing Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has slammed Russian leader Vladimir Putin for the killings of innocent civilians in Ukraine by his forces.
Known as the “Punisher” in part due to his bloody anti-drugs crackdown, Duterte – who openly calls Putin an idol and a friend – said that while the two of them have been dubbed killers, “I kill criminals, I don’t kill children and the elderly.”
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The Philippines leader voiced his rebuke for the first time over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in a televised weekly meeting with key cabinet officials aired on Tuesday where he blamed the three-month-old war for the spike in global oil prices that has battered many countries, including his own.
Duterte said he was concerned about the stability of his country’s oil supply as the war in Ukraine continues to rage and spark global instability.
“I’m on the way out and I don’t know how to solve the problem,” Duterte said. “You have to solve the war between Ukraine and Russia before we can talk of even returning to normalcy.”
Moreover, Duterte called the invasion of Ukraine a full-scale war waged against “a sovereign nation” and not a “special military operation” as Putin has been labelling it since March.
“Many say that Putin and I are both killers. I’ve long told you Filipinos that I really kill. But I kill criminals, I don’t kill children and the elderly,” Duterte said. “We’re in two different worlds.”
Duterte, who has been president for six years and steps down on June 30, has presided over a brutal anti-drugs crackdown that has left more than 6,000 mostly petty suspects dead.
Human rights groups have cited a much higher casualty rate and say innocent people, including children, have been killed in the campaign that Duterte pledges to continue up to his last day in office.
The International Criminal Court has opened an investigation into the drug campaign as a possible crime against humanity – a probe that was temporarily suspended after the Philippines made a deferral request in 2021.
Duterte and his police officials have denied sanctioning extrajudicial killings in the campaign against illegal drugs but the president has openly threatened drug suspects with death.
He also made an unsuccessful attempt to reimpose the death penalty in the largest Roman Catholic nation in Asia to deter drug dealers and other criminals.
When he took office in 2016, he reached out to Russia and China for trade and investment and to expand military cooperation while often criticising the security policies of Washington, Manila’s longtime treaty ally.
He visited Russia in 2017 and 2019 to meet Putin but cut short his first visit after ISIL (ISIS)-aligned fighters laid siege to the southern Philippine city of Marawi while he was away with his defence secretary and military chief of staff.
More than a week after Russian forces launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine, the Philippines voted in favour of a UN General Assembly resolution condemning the Russian invasion.
The Philippines appealed for the protection of civilians and public infrastructure in Ukraine, although Duterte held back from strongly criticising Putin and said he would remain neutral in the conflict.