Career diplomat and former senator Leticia Ramos Shahani has urged President Rodrigo Duterte to be more careful in his speeches, especially as he is the country's chief diplomat.
In an interview with [email protected], Shahani said that as president, Duterte is not only the commander-in-chief of the military and the police, but is also the top diplomat.
"In diplomacy, walang biro biro [there are no jokes]. Everything is sort of seriously taken. Diplomacy is a linguistic career, so as a diplomat you are trained to be careful about every word you say especially to the country to which you are accredited," she said.
In a speech recently, Duterte took a swipe at U.S. Ambassador to Manila Philip Goldberg, calling him "gay," for commenting on a controversial remark he made as a then-presidential candidate.
Duterte's statement has prompted the United States State Department to ask Philippine envoy in Washington to “clarify” the “inappropriate” comments.
Shahani said, she wants Duterte to succeed as president, thus, "he has to be careful with language and he has used gutter language insofar as Ambassador Goldberg is concerned."
"Ambassador Goldberg as U.S. Ambassador is the highest-ranking official here. He has letter of credence from President [Barack] Obama, saying to President of the Philippines that 'he is our representative, he can negotiate for us,' so because of that he has to be respected in the same way we want Philippine ambassador in Washington to be respected," she said.
Shahani agreed, however, that Goldberg should also not have said anything during the election season, which is a sensitive period for the candidates and the voting populace.
"He really should not have said anything during election time because that’s a very sensitive issue for us," she said, adding that there really is "a love-hate relationship between America and the Philippines" because of inequality in power and money.
But she maintained, both countries need each other, with America's pivot to Asia that comes with China's rise to power, and with the Philippines needing military backing.
Nevertheless, the former chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee believes that though the relationship of the Philippines and the U.S. remain strong, Philippines must learn to defend itself independently.
"Although Obama said in his last Malacañang dinner, that agreement [mutual defense treaty] is ironclad, whatever that means, it’s all semantics…We have to learn to defend ourselves because no one else will," she said.