Duterte Named Filipino President in Landslide Election

Tiffany Chang - 1B Chemical
Posted on: June 4, 2016

On May 10, Rodrigo “Digong” Duterte was announced to have won the presidency in the Philippine 2016 elections. Duterte is known by some as “The Punisher” for his tough stance on how the government should deal with criminals.

As mayor of the city of Davao, a city on the southern Philippine island of Mindanao, he transformed law and order in the city. Davao used to be the murder capital of the Philippines, but it is now called “the most peaceful city in Southeast Asia” by some tourism companies.

He hopes to impose some of the municipal policies that he had implemented in Davao to reduce crime throughout the rest of the country, such as “a late-night drinking ban and a curfew for unescorted minors after 10 p.m.” Overall, Duterte vowed to get rid of corruption and illegal drugs within six months.

According to election officials, there was a record turnout at polling stations—over 81 per cent of the 54 million registered voters cast ballots. As one of six presidential candidates, Duterte won by a clear margin—nearly twice as many as some of his opponents.

Duterte has not included many stances on international issues compared to his intended policies for domestic issues within the Philippines. He has already maintained that disputed islands in the South China Sea belong to the Philippines, but has asserted that the Philippines would not go to war with China over the conflict. Related to the South China Sea dispute is Duterte’s doubt that the U.S. would not deliver on their commitment to protect the Philippines in its maritime dispute with China. As a result, he wants to ditch a deal that allows American military personnel to enter the country for regular military exercises.

Despite the controversy surrounding some of Duterte’s campaign and past cases of direct involvement in human rights violations, he has the right idea of focusing on domestic issues, such as fighting corruption and decreasing national crime rates. From the extremely high voter turnout, it appears as though Filipino citizens are eager to elect a government that is driven by action rather than inaction, especially when it comes to dealing with issues that are stunting the Philippines’ development—despite enjoying economic growth (5.8 per cent in 2015 even though international demand for Filipino exports dropped).

I am particularly fascinated with Duterte’s stance with China and the U.S. On one hand, he is firm with the Philippines’ ownership of the islands in the South China Sea; however, he would not be willing to burn bridges with the Philippines’ close neighbour. Let’s face it: families, let alone neighbours, will never always see eye-to-eye. But in the end, everyone has to live in relative peace together. Who would benefit from going full-out bonkers against the other?

Duterte’s position on U.S. military personnel in the Philippines is another wild card: The Philippines is one of the closest allies to the U.S. in Asia, and the majority of Filipinos view Americans favourably. Can Duterte’s position be foreshadowing that the two nations are starting to fall out? Perhaps they are, perhaps they are not. Who really knows? My guess is that Duterte is keeping his cards close to his chest and prefers to side with no country but his own.

In times as turbulent as these, who can really blame him?