Duterte's government a huge disappointment and letdown, says former Philippine president Ramos

Former Philippine president Fidel Ramos (above) has branded President Rodrigo Duterte's government as a "huge disappointment and letdown".
Former Philippine president Fidel Ramos (above) has branded President Rodrigo Duterte's government as a "huge disappointment and letdown". PHOTO: REUTERS

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

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

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

Mr Duterte picked Mr 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.

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

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

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

Mr Duterte was rated "very good", with a net satisfaction rating of 64 per cent in a Social Weather Stations Poll on Thursday (Oct 6), behind Mr Ramos at 66 per cent. Only 11 per cent of 1,200 people polled were not satisfied with Mr Duterte.

In a Sunday (Oct 9) editorial in the Manila Bulletin newspaper, much of it written in capital letters, Mr Ramos listed priority focus areas that could have been "do-able" if Mr 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".

The drugs crackdown, Mr Duterte's signature policy that is 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 (Oct 7), 84 per cent of Filipinos supported the crackdown although most felt it important to arrest suspects alive.

Mr Ramos said the government's mixed statements on Philippine-US relations were "discombobulating" including Mr Duterte's verbal attack on US President Barack Obama early in September at the same time his defence minister and finance ministers were on visits to the United States.

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

On Friday, he reiterated that ongoing US-Philippines military exercises would be "the last" and challenged Washington to use the Central Intelligence Agency to oust him.

"So what gives??" Mr 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 Mr Duterte.

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