VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Was Duterte referring to Najib, instead of Mahathir, as Malaysian PM?

After VERA Files broke the story on the son of a Moro National Liberation Front leader jailed in Malaysia for the Davao bombing, President Rodrigo Duterte promptly confirmed the news.

He then credited the arrest, and the ability to secure regional waters, to his good working relations with President Joko Widodo of Indonesia, and “Mahathir.”


Ngayon dito sa…kayong nagputok diyan sa Maute, they have all been accounted for. Nahuli ko na lahat. Ang isa diyan anak ni Sema, mayor ng Cotabato. He’s now detained diyan sa Malaysia.You know, we have good working relations with Mahathir and Widodo. And hindi pa dumating iyong mga fast boats ko eh, pero ang order ko talaga sa sundalo, ‘pag na-kidnap ka at nagkahabulan, and the Indonesian army…the navy would pursue you inside my waters, I said okay, if we do not have any available sea assets there around, you can go ahead and blast them off. That’s the same with Mahathir.”

(Source: Speech during the 49th Annual Installation of Davao City Chamber of Commerce and Industries Inc. Trustees and Officials, Marco Polo Hotel, Davao City, Jan. 14, 2017, watch from 25:50 – 26:44)


Duterte must be referring to Najib Razak, current prime minister of Malaysia, with whom he even bonded with over a sing-off during his first official visit in Malaysia in November. (Watch them sing the 70s hit ,“Sha-La-La-La-La,” by the Danish rockers The Walkers)


Najib’s predecessor, Abdullah Badawi, served until 2009.

While Mahathir Mohamad was prime minister of Malaysia from 1981 to 2003, known as one of Asia’s longest-serving leader.


he was elected president in 2016, Duterte held local positions —

and vice mayor of Davao City — except when he became a member of the
House of Representatives from 1998 to 2001.

There is no report on Duterte’s “working relations” with Mahathir.


BBC: Profile: Mahathir Mohamad

The New York Times: Mahathir, Malaysia’s Autocratic Modernizer, Steps Down

The Economist: Malaysia After Mahathir

BBC: Profile: Najib Abdul Razak