Philipines President Causes Controversy

Gabrielle Klemt - 1T Environmental
Posted on: October 11, 2016

You think Trump is bad? Well, he is, but at least (for now) he isn’t the most powerful man in the most powerful country in the world (arguably). As of this minute, Trump has not been elected to the Oval Office and his shenanigans, while often rude, racist, and vulgar, at least don’t speak for the entire country of the United States.

However, the Philippines are currently experiencing just what happens when you elect someone who isn’t afraid to speak his mind without clearing his opinions with anyone at all. Roberto Duterte was elected at the end of June, and has spent his first few months as the Philippines’s sixteenth president swearing at world leaders he is supposed to be on good terms with, and giving the actual finger to the EU. And like Trump, Duterte does not shy away from saying very controversial things.

Duterte’s opinions on everything from Hitler – who he sees as a guy with great vision saying, “Hitler massacred three million Jews. Now, there is three million drug addicts. I’d be happy to slaughter them” – , to Viagra which he touts as improving his sex life with his mistresses, to the rape and murder of an Australian diplomat in 1989, to the Pope whom he called a “son of a whore” for causing a road closure, have been well-documented throughout his campaign and subsequent ascension to head of state.

But perhaps the most serious thing he has done since taking office is his persecution of not only those selling illegal drugs, but also those who are addicted. In his slightly more than 100 days as president, thousands of people have been killed either in shootings from resisting arrest or vigilante killings that take place in the middle of the night. Bodies are being left in the streets with their drug crimes taped to their corpses on cardboard signs.

Duterte won his position by promising to wipe out the drug problem Philippines has been battling for years. When he was mayor of Davao, he ran on the platform of “if you do not leave my city, I will kill you”, a statement that has changed to now read country rather than city. The police have implemented a “knock and plead” technique, where they go to the houses of those suspected of being part of the drug trade and have them either arrested or killed. In fact, Duterte encourages police to kill people who resist arrest.

Both the EU and the UN have tried to call for Duterte to take a more diplomatic approach to the drug problem, citing concerns over human rights abuses, which are well-placed concerns after hearing him glibly say “forget the laws on human rights”. Their concerns, of course, have led to multiple profanity-laced speeches using his middle finger to really drive home his points. He has also threatened to pull out of the UN, calling their experts stupid. Last week, he told the EU and the US that he does not want their support, saying: “If you think it’s high time for you guys to withdraw your assistance, go ahead. We will not beg for it…You will never understand the pain that we are suffering. Go away, bring your money somewhere else.”

You may be surprised, considering the inflammatory nature of his quotes, that you haven’t heard of him until now. His comments have sparked online quizzes called, “Who said it: Trump, Putin or Duterte”. But like Trump and Putin, it’s his straight talking, saying what (some, not all) people are thinking style of speech that have won him so much support among the population.

Maybe you’re hearing about him now because suddenly he’s trying very hard to get the attention of the West, saying last week that he would finally “break up” with the States and telling President Obama to “go to hell”. Previously, America has had a very strong relationship with the Philippines, something the President’s office was quick to point out when concern was raised over Duterte’s comments. These comments in particular seem to stem from a desire to radically change Philippine’s foreign policy, as he has said, “I serve notice to you now that this will be the last joint military exercise with US.” It appears that Duterte has other countries in mind, declaring, “I’d rather go to Russia and to China.” This is a surprising move considering the Philippines and China are currently embroiled in a serious land mass dispute that doesn’t look like it’s about to end.

And if you think that Duterte is like Trump, you had better think again: according to Duterte himself, “He is a bigot and I am not.” Personally, I think that at least Trump is not running on a platform of murder, and it’s almost an insult to Trump to compare the two.

I think for now, we can at least be consoled that he is not Rodrigo Duterte. Is this what our neighbours to the south might be in for if that particular candidate makes it to the Oval Office? I don’t think so, but we’ll just have to wait and see.