Philippine President Duterte Mimics Trump's Racism and Sexism in Defensive Insults at the U.N.

Duterte attacked human rights officials this week.

Photo Credit: PCOO EDP

When it comes to disturbing rhetoric, Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte is no stranger to the practice of stunning his viewers with a diverse range of obscenities. Be it misogynist invectives, promising cash prizes for killing rebels or boasting about committing murder, Duterte is notorious for openly uncouth proclamations. Keeping his record of indelicacy alive, Duterte recently attacked human rights officials, including reportedly mocking the race of a black prosecutor at the International Criminal Court.

According to Al Jazeera, Duterte mocked United Nations rapporteur Agnes Callamard’s appearance by calling him "malnourished" and "skinny" while pointing out ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda as "that black woman." The disturbing comments elicited criticism and concern from the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra'ad al Hussein, who said Duterte needs "psychiatric evaluation." Al Hussein added, "This is absolutely disgraceful that the president of a country could speak this way, using the foulest of language against a rapporteur that is highly respected."

On Wednesday, Duterte made flippant remarks about international human rights agencies seeking to investigate the rising death toll that has reportedly occurred in his drug war. "Human rights, human rights, son of a bitch, human rights," Duterte said in front of a crowd. According to Human Rights Watch, at least 12,000 people have been killed in the Philippine president's brutal drug war since June 2016. The official government under Duterte denies this.

Unsettling as his comments may be, Duterte enjoys unwavering support and praise from the leader of the world's most powerful country, Donald Trump. In November 2017, Trump lauded his relationship with Duterte as "great" and praised the Philippine president's drug war policies. Duterte has even been dubbed the "Donald Trump of the East."

A comparison between Duterte and Trump may reveal quite a few shared traits and interests. For instance, both presidents support vicious drug wars. Both have used vulgar language regarding women's bodies. In Trump's case, his "grab her by the pussy" remarks from an Access Hollywood tape in 2005 continue to stain his reputation (he later apologized), and in Duterte's case, the leader once encouraged his army to shoot female rebel fighters "in the vagina" since women would be "useless" without their genitals. And both leaders seem to have a toxic relationship with the press.

Perhaps even more disturbing than his litany of vulgarities, is the existential threat Duterte poses to democracy. As “How Democracies Die” author Steven Levitsky told AlterNet in March, Trump’s consistent support for Duterte undermines the future of democracy in the Philippines. Levitsky said Duterte “faces no external pressure, despite massive human rights violation”—and that could have chilling implications for global democracy. “Autocrats are learning that they can get away with more than they have in a decade,” Levitsky said.

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Mehreen Kasana is a news writer. Previously, she worked as the front-page editor for the Huffington Post. Follow her on Twitter at @mehreenkasana.