Rodrigo Duterte: International Threat or Unorthodox Demagogue?

Philippines’ leader, President Rodrigo Duterte, has frequently been criticized by the western media and has been constantly shown in a bad light. To most people outside of the Philippine Islands, he is thought of as a borderline dictator who has little respect to his own people; mainly after issuing the war on drugs in his home country. Even though he is portrayed abroad as having no problem slaughtering his own people if desired, his citizens adore him.

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Duterte was elected as President by obtaining 15.56% more of the total votes than his main rival, Mar Roxas, in 2016. Despite gaining international criticism on his brutal war on drugs and his human rights record, his administration’s approval rating surprisingly seems to keep increasing as it recently received an “excellent” net satisfaction rating of 70% by his people (the highest ever recorded since the country began holding such surveys in the 1980s) in a local survey in which:

  • 79% were satisfied
  • 9% were dissatisfied
  • 12% were neither satisfied nor dissatisfied

[Source: Reuters]

After interviewing one pro-Duterte Filipina (who would like to remain anonymous), ‘A Bird’s Eye View’ has received an exclusive insight into why he is being labelled as the leader of “Philippines’ best ever government”.

When asked why she supports the 73-year-old man, the immediate response was that “he has guts” and that many other past and present Filipino politicians remain reluctant in their actions, constantly fearing a sudden decrease in followers. However, Duterte has shown that he is a man of his word in the actions he has taken; most notably by commencing the war on drugs as he promised during election time.

“He is a fearless man who always does what’s best for the Filipino citizens” is what the interviewee had told ‘A Bird’s Eye View’ during the interview. This was seen when Joanna Demafelis, a Filipina maid based in Kuwait, was found dead in a freezer inside her employers’ apartment in February 2018; over a year after she was reported missing.

As a result, Duterte drastically advised the estimated 252,000 Filipinos in the Middle-Eastern country to “come home” for their own safety, completely disregarding foreign relations with the rich region. To ensure that many come home as demanded, he also claimed to aid them financially: “I will look for money and I will get it all, all the Filipino workers (in Kuwait)”. Duterte’s administration does not fear any international tension, not even with big allies. In the first half of 2017, Philippines’ Supreme Court implied to go to war with China over large areas of the South China Sea, a central hub of trade and natural resources in South East Asia. This was one of his many acts in winning over the vast majority of Filipinos, this time through his lack of fear.

Duterte is heavily admired for not succumbing to greed (unlike many Filipino politicians) and for the love he holds for his nation. This was recently displayed when he ordered that Philippines’ most popular tourist island, Boracay, would have a six-month long shutdown to clean up its environment. This period began on April 26th, 2018 due to several environmental violations. This means that the tourist location will be closed during its peak season in terms of business.

The government have set aside ₱2.5 billion to provide temporary work to those people affected by this environmental project. In total, they have planned to spend an accumulated amount of ₱3.7 billion. This is however just a mere fraction of Boracay’s island revenue of 2017: ₱57.4 billion.

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The subject had such praise for the 16th President of the Philippines as it had been made known that he is not one to bluff when the state of his nation is at stake. This was evident when he claimed to fire two officials due to graft and corruption on April 22nd, 2018. Unfortunately, not much evidence of this claim exists since he opted to keep the identities of these officials hidden to the world. Either way, his people believe that he told the truth and further boosting his status amongst them as their leader.

Contrarily to the kind words our subject had to say about the 73-year-old man, it’s his unique antics that grab the headlines in the western media. The labelled “Trump of the Philippines” has been portrayed as a maniac because of his vulgar words and actions.

His language, most notably, consists of him declaring that he does not care about human rights, calling Barack Obama a “son of a whore”, saying “F*ck you” to his critics in the European Union. His most recent headline is from this week as he has called God a “stupid son of a b*tch”. This last event may see his approval rating drop this quarter since Philippines is heavily catholic. He is now receiving much backlash from bishops in the South-Eastern Asian country. He has also caused a political stir as he had also once said that he would consider buying arms from China and Russia, seemingly not caring to be a US ally.

Although his words should be taken seriously, Filipino citizens don’t seem to be very bothered as they have learned to interpret such statements as hyperboles (even when serious).

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This is also the case on his most controversial action: calling the war on drugs. At first, Filipino citizens did not believe the extent of his intentions and assumed that he was exaggerating. However, thousands of deaths later, he has proven his sincerity.

At the time of writing, estimates of the death toll in this war on drugs vary significantly. While official statistics boast a minimum of 4200 deaths as of April 30th, 2018, Human Rights Watch claimed at least 12,000 3 months prior. Worryingly, senator Antonio Trillanes has stated that up to 20,000 lives have been taken since the start of this controversial campaign. Therefore, no one truly knows how many people have died.

If Rodrigo Roa Duterte fully sticks to his word (which he most often does), he will take the lives of 100,000 men and women whom are either pushers, drug addicts or casual users. He never distinguished between them, implying that they all share the same fate: death.

When asked about whether this was the best way to handle the severity of drugs in the Philippines, the subject replied: “Yes. That is how one must be in the Philippines; tough.”

She continued: “There is so much drugs and corruption in the Philippines that, before Duterte, it had reached an uncontrollable level. Duterte, with his tough and serious character, had clamped it down and overall, aided the country.”

In conclusion, Rodrigo Duterte admittedly tries helping the Philippines but never fails to lack anything slightly controversial in whatever he does. So, do his citizens praise him too much or should the rest of the world stop bashing him as much as they love to do?

Written by: Kyle P. Camilleri

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