A few weeks ago, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte — known for his outspoken and often offensive rhetoric — made waves when he publicly referred to God as “stupid” and a “son of a bitch.”
This would have been indelicate for any country’s leader to do, but it was walking into a minefield in the Philippines, a deeply religious country in which more than 80 percent of the population of 100 million is Catholic.
Though Duterte’s approval ratings have remained sky-high throughout his first two years in office, the “God” snafu was the first comment of his that seemed to truly resonate among the electorate — and could ultimately have a broader effect on the political atmosphere in the Philippines ahead of next year’s midterm elections.
As part of my Jefferson Fellowship, I and 10 other journalists spent five days reporting in Manila, meeting with everyone from government officials to human rights advocates to university students. These “God” comments were the jumping-off point for two of my stories: the first one on the relationship between Duterte and the Catholic Church for Foreign Policy, which you can read here. The second was on the Philippine vice president, Leni Robredo, and how Duterte’s recent scandals have given her an opening to step up and more vocally oppose Duterte’s policies; you can read that, for the German broadcaster Deutsche Welle, here.
I’ve been back in Berlin for about a week now, and the rest of my stories from the trip will go online shortly. The rest of my stories from Asia should be publishing this week and next week, and then I’ll turn my attention back to German and European politics (which have not exactly been quiet in my absence).