While all eyes are glued on new Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and his brutal crackdown on drug traffickers, Filipinos living in Japan appear optimistic about the changes he is making back home and hope ties between the two nations will grow stronger.
Duterte, also known for making controversial comments is arriving Tuesday for a three-day visit to Japan, his first here since he assumed office in June.
“I can’t wait to see” Duterte make many changes in the Philippines, said 52-year-old housewife Jocelyn Otsuka, who has lived in Japan for 25 years.
She was interviewed by The Japan Times while visiting Catholic Koiwa Church in Edogawa Ward, Tokyo, on Sunday.
She said she supports Duterte in his war against the drug trade.
In September, Duterte said he would be “happy to slaughter” an estimated 3 million addicts in the Philippines. So far, roughly 4,000 suspected dealers and users have been killed.
Human Rights Watch said last month that “the Philippine government should invite an independent investigation involving the United Nations into allegations of direct involvement by President Rodrigo Duterte in extrajudicial killings.”
Despite international criticism of these killings, Otsuka said she believes Duterte’s decision is necessary to be able to make changes in her home country.
“We had the same president for a long time, but nothing has changed,” but Duterte will follow through on his promises, Otsuka said.
“Extrajudicial killings are only for bad people … for the pushers, the drug lords … and not for the innocent people. He’s fighting for our rights, especially toward the pushers, illegal drugs and corruption,” she said.
Eri Ito, 48, said corruption is a major problem in the Philippines and she wants Duterte to stamp it out.
“The past few presidents were terrible. They were all thieves,” Ito said. “They just didn’t think anything and put money into their pockets.”
Ann Cabritit, 50, agreed, and said, “I’m happy because the Philippines will be very clean.”
Marizel Suzuki, 42, who runs a company, recalled growing up in the Philippines and said the drug trade has ravaged her home country.
“I think the situation is better now because a person addicted to drugs will not be able to buy it anymore. (Duterte) knows what he wants to change,” said Suzuki, who was also visiting the church.
During Duterte’s visit, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is reportedly looking to offer ¥5 billion in loans, aimed at facilitating agricultural development on the southern island of Mindanao, where Davao City is situated.
As longtime mayor of that city, Duterte occasionally attended receptions at the Japanese Consulate there to mark Emperor Akihito’s birthday, indicating he carries a favorable view of Japan, unlike, according to some of his recent comments, the way he feels about the United States.
During a visit last week to Beijing, Duterte announced a “separation” from the U.S., not so long after he called President Barack Obama a “son of a bitch.” Duterte later corrected himself and explained that he did not mean he will totally cut ties with Washington.
“Many Japanese people live there (in Davao), and they provide support to the Filipino people there. That’s why President Duterte knows the heart of the Japanese people,” said Otsuka, adding that she expects Duterte to strengthen bonds between the two countries, since financial backing from Japan would be an important source in revitalizing the Philippine economy.
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