President Rodrigo Duterte came home from his second state visit to Russia with apparently more issues on his plate than when he left. His participation at the Valdai international forum in Sochi near the Black Sea wasn’t exactly a howling success; his problem at home with the alleged involvement of the Philippine National Police (PNP) chief in the “recycling” of confiscated illegal drugs had become so much more explosive. Police sources fear any misstep on his part could make the PNP situation much more mutinous.

At the forum hosted by Russian President Vladimir Putin, with King Abdullah II of Jordan, President Kassym Jomart Tokayev of Kazakhstan, and President Heydar Oglu Aliyev of Azerbaijan present, DU30 had the opportunity to talk about large global issues such as the evolving power relationships between China, America, Europe, and the rest of the world in this digital age. All he managed to do, in the language of the social media, was to “rant” against the US and the West.

He tried to convince his audience that he wasn’t quite the killer his human rights critics liked to picture him to be. He was clearly on a defensive mode. Yet not a few would have remembered that in the last three years he had tried to make everyone believe he was a real “killer” everyone should dread. By wearing a clumsily attached garter necktie, and giving long-winded answers to questions which the forum host was forced to cut, he eluded serious scrutiny as a statesman, and called attention to his non-conventional physical appearance instead. This became, unfairly, the focus of his media coverage.

Earlier in Moscow, DU30 showed up looking slightly disheveled for his meeting with Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev. “Unkempt,” said the Czech journalist Pavel Vondra in a news agency tweet. “Did he drink all night? Did he just leave the pub? Do Filipinos know what state visit protocol is?” The internet blast on DU30’s inability to wear his necktie correctly put in the shade the tour de force performance by the world-famous Madrigal singers, which won raves from their audience, as did their special concert on Oct. 9 in Virac, Catanduanes, where 40 Catholic bishops and the Apostolic Nuncio celebrated the silver anniversary of Virac Bishop Manolo de los Santos.

DU30 didn’t look exactly like Mahatma Gandhi meeting with the Queen of England at Buckingham in his usual half-nakedness. That was a class act by itself. When Ghandi was asked whether he did not think it necessary to get himself decently covered first, he said the Queen had enough clothes “for both of us.” In DU30’s case, he wore a suit all right, but he failed to button the collar of his shirt and tie the Windsor knot below his neck; and his rustic spokesman aggravated the offense by saying DU30’s sense of “personal comfort” came before everything else.

No one has died of asphyxia for wearing his necktie around his neck, but DU30 imposed his own rules above the accepted etiquette. Even in the case of the Filipino barong, which has gained international recognition as the equivalent of the formal Western dress, DU30 has managed to wear it improperly with an open breast and rolled-up sleeves. The traditional correct way of wearing the barong is to button the cuffs and the breast up to the neck; for formal occasions, equivalent to the black tie, the collar button is closed.

Proper dressing is an indispensable part of good manners and right conduct. It tells the gentleman from the knave, the statesman from the peasant. It shows one’s respect for others. It would be inappropriate to wear jeans or combat shoes to a state diplomatic function, especially when the dress code is specified. On one state visit to Japan that I joined, the President’s valet had to procure a pair of morning pants overnight, after he was told the President needed one for his meeting with the Emperor the next day and he had failed to pack one in his wardrobe. That’s how important these seemingly unimportant things are.

But the Russians, who have been observing the correct dress since the time of the Czars, did not seem to mind DU30’s sartorial lapse. Moscow State Institute of International Relations conferred upon him an honorary doctorate in international relations, without asking him to say anything on international relations. Presumably Putin appreciated the fact that DU30 gave up his place in the 70th anniversary celebration of the Oct. 1 Chinese Revolution in Beijing, to the chagrin of Chinese President Xi Jinping, in order to be with him at Sochi.

Nothing could prevent DU30 from talking about the drug killings and the offensive kibitzing by foreigners. Threatened with criminal prosecution for crimes against humanity before the International Criminal Court at the Hague, he struck back by withdrawing from the Rome Statutes creating the ICC, making the Philippines the second country to do so after Burundi. He insisted the killings were a purely domestic affair, and that foreign governments, individuals and institutions had no business poking their noses into it.

After that DU30 threatened to withdraw from the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva when Iceland introduced a resolution calling for an inquiry into the human rights situation in the Philippines. He failed to carry out this threat, but later banned economic grants or aid from any of the 19 countries that supported the Iceland resolution. All 19 have since been delisted as possible suppliers of military hardware to his government, so DU30 had to reach out to Russia for some military weapons.

The world reacts when Brazilian President Jair Messias Bolsonaro tells the UN General Assembly that the 5.5-million-square-kilometer Amazon rainforest, which has been on fire since September, is “not a world heritage site” but a sovereign part of Brazil, which is Brazil’s concern alone. Yet everybody seems stupefied when DU30 says the killing of Filipinos in his drug war is a purely internal matter and does not concern the rest of mankind.

This issue will haunt him (and us) beyond the end of his term in 2022. But right now his regime has other serious concerns. Its stability seems directly threatened by the controversies swirling around PNP Chief Oscar Albayalde’s alleged involvement in the “recycling” of confiscated illegal drugs worth at least a billion pesos. Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong, a highly respected former chief of the PNP Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG), has accused Albayalde of coddling the so-called “ninja cops” in the drugs trade and demanded his resignation. Magalong appears to have won the support of the PNP rank and file, but seems to have difficulty convincing the President.

DU30 seemed prepared to deal with Albayalde before he left for Moscow. But signals got crossed upon his return. The PNP chief was reported to claim the allegations against him were part of “destabilization” activities against DU30, who later said “no police generals are involved in the recycling of illegal drugs, only colonels maybe.” This was “disheartening” to the PNP rank and file, said one police source who claims to know what’s happening, adding that “some very important people could be playing with fire.” Sen. Richard Gordon’s blue ribbon committee inquiry has tended to bury Albayalde deeper into the mire.