Putin war on Ukraine: Will it change Duterte’s love for his ‘idol’? | Inquirer News
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Putin war on Ukraine: Will it change Duterte’s love for his ‘idol’?

By: - Content Researcher Writer / @inquirerdotnet
/ 07:22 PM March 04, 2022
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MANILA, Philippines—As the crossfire between Russia and Ukraine continues to spread, 141 of the 193 members of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) voted to condemn Russia over its invasion of Ukraine and demanded that Moscow withdraw its military forces.

Among the countries that voted in favor of the UN resolution during an emergency special session of the UNGA on Mar. 2 was the Philippines—led by President Rodrigo Duterte, who once described Russian dictator Vladimir Putin as his “favorite hero.”

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READ: UN General Assembly demands Russia withdraw from Ukraine

READ: PH joins 140 nations in deploring Russia’s ‘aggression against Ukraine’

Prior to Putin’s announcement of the invasion of Ukraine, Duterte has been a fan of the Russian leader. Throughout Duterte’s administration, several agreements, visits, and meetings have been called with Putin—which in turn deepened and strengthened relations between the two leaders and their countries.

GRAPHIC: Ed Lustan

With the ongoing crisis between Russia and Ukraine, however, Duterte announced that he will hold a “special meeting” with the military, police, and several Cabinet members to discuss the situation in Ukraine.

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“I will be calling for a special meeting, we will discuss about what is evolving, what is happening in Europe. I want you to listen to how important it is for you to know what is happening now,” Duterte said.

READ: Duterte to hold ‘special meeting’ to discuss Russia-Ukraine crisis

As the war between Russia and Ukraine continued to escalate, Duterte has so far approved several recommendations of his economic team to strengthen the Philippines’ domestic economy.

READ: Duterte OKs recommendations to strengthen domestic economy amid Russia-Ukraine conflict

The recommendations aim to cushion the impact of the ongoing Russia-Ukraine crisis on the Philippines.

READ: Why it matters: How Putin’s invasion of Ukraine could impact PH

READ: Putin’s war on Ukraine and impact on PH prices

The President has yet to release a statement or comment about Putin.

In this article, INQUIRER.net will look back at the past significant interactions between the two leaders, Duterte and Putin.

2016: ‘My favorite hero’

In 2016, the newly-elected Duterte said he aims to build “new alliances” with China and Russia, amid a running feud with the United States (US) for what he perceived as undue interference in how he was addressing illegal drugs and crime.

GRAPHIC: Ed Lustan

When asked which presidential candidate he would get along with in the White House—Republican candidate Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton of the Democratic Party—Duterte said he was“better off in saying that my favorite hero is Putin.”

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“I would like to answer your question candidly, honestly, and truthfully. Problem is, personally, it doesn’t really matter much. But I’m a president of a country, and we have this splendid relation with America,” Duterte said in Oct. 2016.

GRAPHIC: Ed Lustan

“And the fact that there are millions of Filipinos in your country… I cannot gamble an answer. Because either way, it would affect… they might create hostility and antagonism here. I’m better off in saying that my favorite hero is Putin,” he added.

In the same interview with a CNN reporter, Duterte also said that “there are three of us against the world—China, Philippines, Russia.”

READ: Clinton? Trump? Duterte says Putin ‘my favorite hero’

In Nov. 2016, Duterte was finally able to meet his “favorite hero” in person, on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Peru.

“It was like we have known each other for a long time and even [by] the way we pat each other’s hand in a handshake,” Duterte said.

Like a starstruck schoolboy who just met his idol, Duterte gushed about his first meeting with Putin—whom Duterte said has a “wide laugh.”

READ: A blooming bromance? Duterte gushes over Putin

2017: ‘We will remember you for all time’

“We welcome our Russian friends. Anytime you want to dock here for anything, for play, for replenish supplies or maybe our ally to protect us.”

Duterte said this to Rear Admiral Eduard Mikhailov, deputy commander of the Flotilla of the Russian Navy Pacific Fleet, in January 2017 when a Russian antisubmarine vessel, together with a sea tanker, the Boris Butoma, went on a goodwill visit to Manila.

READ: Duterte asks Russia: Be PH ally and protector

On May 24, 2017 Duterte met Putin again in a “landmark” trip, where he reportedly offered friendship to Putin and asked for a soft loan from Russia to buy firearms because the United States had canceled the Philippines’ planned purchase of US guns.

The Moscow trip was cut short as Duterte had to fly back home to the Philippines to address the then-ongoing terror attacks in Marawi City.

READ: Duterte asks Putin for loan to buy guns

Former Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano, who was then the country’s foreign affairs secretary, said Duterte and Putin admired each other.

“To describe the environment in the meeting, it was really a meeting of kindred spirits or of real brotherhood. You could feel the mutual trust and admiration. The discussions were very comprehensive,” Cayetano said.

READ: Duterte, Putin are ‘kindred spirits’

On Oct. 24, 2017, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and his Russian counterpart, Gen. Sergey Shoygu, boosted defense ties between the Philippines and Russia by signing a military-technical cooperation agreement that would allow them to conduct joint research, production support, and the possibility of exchange of experts and training of personnel.

Lorenzana also signed a contract with Rosoboronexport—the sole state intermediary agency for Russia’s exports and imports of defense-related and dual-use products, technologies, and services.

GRAPHIC: Ed Lustan

The following day, on Oct. 25, 2017, Russia handed over military equipment to the Philippines, which included 5,000 AK-74M Kalashnikov assault rifles, one million rounds of ammunition, 20 army trucks, and 5,000 steel helmets.

READ: Russia hands over 5,000 assault rifles, trucks, helmets to Duterte

In November 2017, the two leaders met again—for the third time—at the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) in Vietnam.

There, Duterte thanked Putin for his assistance to the Philippines—including the military equipment sent to the Philippines, which the government said would be used in the fight against terrorism.

“Your timely assistance to my country helped us replenish the old arms and the spent bores that were fired repeatedly and we have a new stock,” he said.

GRAPHIC: Ed Lustan

“In a way, you helped us turn the tide and to shorten the war [in Marawi City] because of your assistance. So again, I thank you very much, the Russian people, and you, Mr. President. We will remember you for all time,” he added.

Putin, in response, said that fighting terrorism was a common concern for Russia and the Philippines.

“You told me while you were leaving Russia, you told me that you had to go back and install law and order to attack terrorists. That’s why I’d like to say that you managed to do just that,” Putin said.

“I would like to say that terrorism is one of our common problems and common challenge and following our agreement, we are ready to keep developing our relations, including in the military area and the tactical and military area,” he added.

READ: Duterte: Russia helped turn tide in Marawi

2018: Duterte slams US over comments on Russian weapons

In April 2018, amid US airstrikes in Syria, Duterte placed his confidence in Putin.

“President Duterte articulated that he is confident that President Putin will do the right thing in the present situation in Syria,” said former Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque.

READ: US airstrikes in Syria: Duterte ‘confident’ Putin will do the ‘right thing’

In August 2018, then-US Assistant Secretary of Defense for Asian and Pacific Security Affairs Randall Schriver cautioned the Philippine defense establishment against buying weapon systems and platforms from Russia.

“I think they should think very carefully about that,” Schriver said during a roundtable discussion at the US Embassy after his meeting with Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana.

“If they proceed with purchasing major Russian equipment, I don’t think that’s a helpful thing to the alliance. I think we can be a better partner than the Russians can be to the Filipino people,” he added.

READ: US defense official cautions PH against acquiring Russian weapons

Schriver also warned the Philippine government against procuring submarines from Russia.

Duterte, on the other hand, slammed the US.

“That is where we will misunderstand each other on that principle that…What’s the problem about acquiring submarines? We are not using [it] against you, neither can we use it against China or anybody else because we are under-armed,” a visibly angry Duterte said in a speech during the convention of the Hugpong ng Pagbabago, a party formed by his daughter Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio, in Davao City on Aug. 17, 2018.

“You meet me in a forum. You state your case why are you against my country acquiring submarine. You give me the reason why and make it public. You want us to remain backwards?” Duterte added.

READ: Duterte slams US for warning PH on buying submarines from Russia

Lorenzana meanwhile clarified that the department was still studying the possible procurement of submarines from Russia.

2019: PH reaffirms robust ties with Russia

Following the terror attack on a Catholic cathedral in Jolo, Sulu on Jan. 27, Putin expressed readiness to boost partnership with the Philippines in fighting terrorism.

“A crime committed against civilians who had congregated for church services is shocking in its cynicism and cruelty. I expect that the masterminds and perpetrators of this crime will sustain the punishment they deserve,” Putin was quoted in a message posted on the website of the Russian leader’s office, and which was shared via Twitter by the office’s official account.

“I would like to reiterate our readiness to further step up interaction with our Philippine partners in combating the terrorist threat in all its forms and manifestations,” the message continued.

In October 2019, Duterte met Putin for the fourth time.

In a statement, Duterte underscored “historic firsts” between the two countries.

“I am here today to reaffirm our strong commitment to build a robust and comprehensive partnership with the Russian Federation,” Duterte, who was accompanied by several of Cabinet secretaries, told Putin.

“In the past two years, we have seen a dramatic increase in bilateral activities across many areas of cooperation at various levels of government. We have also made historic firsts in the key strategic areas from economic defense, security and military technical cooperation,” he added.

READ: After historic firsts, PH reaffirms robust ties with Russia

During the bilateral meeting, Putin assured Duterte that Russia will back the Philippines’ counter-terrorism efforts and initiatives.

“We are prepared to develop our partnership when it comes to countering terrorism and share our experience and all the developments,” Putin told Duterte.

The country also signed 10 business agreements during the Philippine-Russian business forum. According to former Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo, the estimated value of those agreements was around P650 million.

GRAPHIC: Ed Lustan

Among the 10 business agreements was a memorandum of intent signed by Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi and Evgeny Pakermanov of Rusatom Overseas.

Under that memorandum, the Philippines and Rusatom expressed “intention to jointly explore the prospects of cooperation in the construction of nuclear power plants in the Philippines.”

In a statement released days after, the Department of Energy (DOE) clarified that the Memorandum of Intent was only a “framework for discussion and not for a particular construction of a small modular reactor.”

“The President wanted to study first the proposal,” Panelo likewise said.

READ: Duterte wants to first study PH-Russia nuke energy deal

2020: Russia’s COVID vaccine

Amid the soaring cases of COVID-19 in the Philippines by the second half of 2020, the government began ramping up plans and preparations for the country’s vaccine procurement and inoculation.

In August, Malacañang announced that the Philippines will conduct Phase 3 clinical trials of Russia’s COVID vaccine from Oct. 2020 to March 2021.

READ: Phase 3 clinical trials of Russian COVID-19 vaccine in PH set from Oct. 2020 to March 2021

Russia’s COVID-19—Sputnik V named after the first Soviet space satellite—is manufactured by Gamaleya Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology— a Russian medical-research institute founded in 1891.

In a televised speech in the same month, Duterte thanked Putin, as well as Chinese President Xi Jinping, for their offer to prioritize the Philippines in vaccine supply.

Before the year ended, Duterte again invited Putin to visit the Philippines “as soon as circumstances allow” to reaffirm the ties between the two nations.

“It will be an opportunity to celebrate and reaffirm the enduring friendship and cooperation between our countries,” Duterte said, as quoted in a Palace statement.

2021: ‘Sputnik V’ lands in PH

A month after the country began its nationwide COVID vaccine rollout, Duterte and Putin had an “open and productive” discussion about vaccines and the fight against the pandemic during a teleconference.

The two leaders also “reaffirmed their shared commitment to further enhance cooperation” and vowed to cooperate in the battle against COVID-19.

READ: Duterte, Putin talk vaccines; PH orders 20 million Sputnik V shots

In the same teleconference, Putin also made a commitment to increase Russia’s volume of deliveries of Sputnik V to the Philippines.

On Nov. 8, at least 2.8 million doses of Sputnik V that were procured by the Philippine government arrived in the country.

On the same day, Duterte thanked the Russian government for the delivery of the “life-saving” Sputnik V vaccines.

“These deliveries affirm Russia’s commitment to [achieving global] vaccine equity and improving vaccine accessibility to countries, especially the Philippines,” Duterte said in a speech.

“I deeply appreciate Russia’s efforts in fostering cooperation in various areas, including the fight against COVID-19. Goodwill initiatives, such as this vaccine donation and others, demonstrate the strong ties and friendship between Russia and the Philippines,” he added.

READ: Duterte thanks Russia for 2.8M Sputnik V vaccines

As of March 2022, the government has procured a total of 10,000,000 doses of COVID vaccine from Russia’s Gamaleya Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology.

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