Philippine Ex-President Ramos says Duterte government a ‘Letdown’

The government of Philippine leader Rodrigo Duterte has been a “huge disappointment and letdown”, according to a former president and one his mentors, bucking popular sentiment and a high opinion poll rating for his first 100 days in office.

In rare criticism of Duterte, 88-year-old former president Fidel Ramos said the government was “losing badly” by prioritizing a controversial war on drugs at the expense of issues like poverty, living costs, foreign investment and jobs.

Duterte’s spokesman, Ernesto Abella, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Duterte picked Ramos, in office from 1992-1998, as his special envoy to break the ice with China and manage the fallout from an international arbitration ruling Manila won in July that dented Beijing’s claims to jurisdiction over most of the South China Sea.

Duterte has spoken often of his respect for Ramos and that Ramos had persuaded him to run in the May election.

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It was no clear why Ramos made his criticism at this time and he was not available for comment.

Ramos is only president to score higher than Duterte in a Philippine opinion poll traditionally conducted after the first 90 days of each presidency.

Duterte was rated “very good”, with a net satisfaction rating of 64 percent in a Social Weather Stations Poll on Thursday, behind Ramos at 66 percent. Only 11 percent of 1,200 people polled were not satisfied with Duterte.

In a Sunday editorial in the Manila Bulletin newspaper, much of it written in capital letters, Ramos listed priority focus areas that could have been “do-able” if Duterte had hit the ground running “instead of being stuck in endless controversies about extrajudicial killings of drug suspects and in his ability at using cuss-words and insults instead of civilised language”.

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The drugs crackdown, Duterte’s signature policy popular among Filipinos who elected him in May by a huge margin, has killed more than 3,600 people since June 30, with 1,377 shot by police in operations. Activists believe the rest were mostly vigilante killings.

In a separate poll on Friday, 84 percent of Filipinos supported the crackdown although most felt it important to arrest suspects alive.

Ramos said the government’s mixed statements on Philippine-U.S. relations were “discombobulating” including Duterte’s verbal attack on U.S. President Barack Obama early in September at the same time his defense minister and finance ministers were on visits to the United States.

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Duterte a week ago said Obama should “go to hell” and that in his time, he might “break up” with traditional ally Washington.

On Friday, he reiterated ongoing U.S.-Philippines military exercises would be “the last” and challenged Washington to use the Central Intelligence Agency to oust him.

“So what gives??” Ramos asked in the editorial.

“Are we throwing away decades of military partnership, tactical proficiency, compatible weaponry, predictable logistics and soldier-to-soldier camaraderie, just like that?? On DU30’s say-so???,” he said, referring to a popular acronym for Duterte.

Ramos hoped the next 100 days would be “much, much better” and Duterte would consider “the entire gamut of Philippine problems, starting with poverty”.

(Reporting by Martin Petty; Editing by Robert Birsel) REUTERS