Drugs, allies, and enemies: CNN Philippines goes one-on-one with President Duterte

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — President Rodrigo Duterte sat down with CNN Philippines for his first-ever live interview with a local media organization since he took office.

From the collateral damage of the drug war, to the few alliances he holds close, here's a wrap of all the big issues Duterte opened up about.

Close allies

Duterte said he didn't fear or favor anyone in his crackdown on illegal drugs. He said other politicians would exert influence to have police call off anti-drug operations when these began affecting their allies and supporters. In contrast, the President said he owes no debt of gratitude ("utang na loob") to anyone.

Except, however, to "three or four persons."

The President named Ilocos Norte Governor Imee Marcos as the first one, saying he promised her he would allow the burial of her father, the late President Ferdinand Marcos, in the Libingan ng mga Bayani.

Duterte also named Bukidnon Governor Jose Ma. Zubiri, Jr. — the father of Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri — as well as Bataan Governor Abet Garcia.

Cabinet changes

Senator Alan Peter Cayetano, Duterte's running mate, is in line to become the next Foreign Affairs Secretary. The current chief, Perfecto Yasay, will be returning to the United States, where he teaches law at the University of Hawaii.

There is no post yet, however, for former Senator Bongbong Marcos, Imee's brother. "I do not want to make promises," the President said.

Duterte said the younger Marcos had wanted to head the Department of Tourism, but election rules require him to sit out of government for a year after he ran and lost the vice-presidential race in May.

Robredo split

Duterte is "not considering" a new Cabinet post for Vice-President Leni Robredo after she resigned earlier this month.

The President said he held "nothing against Leni," but he pointed out it was "incongruous" of her to to be part of his team when her very own party wanted to oust him.

Robredo had chaired the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council, but she stepped down when Duterte barred her from Cabinet meetings.

Ouster plots

According to Duterte, the United States and the Liberal Party are behind the plots to oust him.

He challenged them to do their best and said he would fight back and "give them a bloody nose."

Duterte added he didn't need the presidency to begin with. He said he only wants to stay to "honor [his] contract" with those who voted him to power.

U.S. military ties

The President wants to abolish the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) between the Philippines and the United States. He said: "Why won't I kick them out? They want to destroy me. Who will be a stupid person, a President that will allow that?"

He admitted, though, that he needs to review the consequences of scrapping the treaty. Many oppose his plans, including his own military leaders.


The Philippines will assert its rights if China tries to "siphon minerals" from the South China Sea. While the government is open to negotiations, even joint exploration in the disputed waters, the President said he would raise the arbitral decision if China exploited resources in the disputed waters.

"I have this title," Duterte said of the international court ruling. "We share economic bounties. So how about us?"

Drug war

Duterte recognized some innocent lives have been lost in the administration's war on drugs. But he stressed, these were only victims caught in the crossfire. Everyone else targeted by police operations were "not suspects, but criminals."

The President also warned the government's war on drugs would continue all throughout his term. He said he wouldn't stop "until the last drug lord is killed."

Watch the livestream of CNN Philippines' One-on-One with the President here.

Catch the replays of the interview on December 30 (10 AM and 11 PM), December 31 (9 AM and 8 PM), and January 1 (10 AM) on CNN Philippines.