Rodrigo Duterte: Saviour of the Philippines?

There has been a lot of talk about the new president of the Philippines and he really is a bit of an enigma, many people are coming out strongly on one side or the other so let’s have a little look at what’s really going on here, if we can.

I recently read an article talking about how Duterte has promised to tell America to remove it’s military bases from Filipino soil. For those who don’t know, America has had a presence in the Philippines for many years, they colonized the country in 1898 and gave in to independence in 1946, the bases however remained and always have and there has been what has been known as a special relationship since then. The comments section of the article was possibly even more interesting to read, there were many comments from Americans saying how it was a stupid move and the Philpippines would live to regret the move. Duterte has also said that he can always talk to China; would that be better? Who knows, but let’s not be scared of change eh! 

In fact I can kind of see what Duterte is talking about, I mean he’s going to dismantle the American bases in the Philippines but will he dismantle the Filipino bases in the USA? Oh wait there are none of course! So is this a bilateral agreement which has been in place or is it more the case of the USA simply exploiting a developing country in order to have bases which are frankly rather strategically placed. Training and equipment do come from the American army this is true, so we wonder if Duterte can replace this when the Americans leave? I think he may have options!

A possibly less relevant idea, but just me thinking aloud is that the Americans have not just brought good things, ( let’s not forget that they are an ex colonial power) one of their large bases is of course Angeles City which is one of the most notorious red light districts in the world, and like many other such areas in this region they became what they are because of American servicemen and their needs for R and R, did they create the prostitution? No, of course not but they did create the area in it’s present form and scale, that’s pretty remarkable.

But hey, let’s get back to Duterte and his most controversial acts after coming to power, his support however that is manifest, in the extra judicial killings of drug dealers and users. Now don’t get me wrong here, I have a hard time standing behind killings of this type, especially for drug users but let’s be clear about this, Duterte was totally honest and transparent about what he would do if he were to gain power. He told the electorate that he would do this and told the drug dealers and users to give themselves up or they would be arrested or killed, he got into power with a landslide victory and is now in the process of keeping his electoral promises which is more than Barack Obama did. ( As an aside I need to apologise for this as although it is true I do genuinely think that Obama has been the best president in my nearly fifty year memory.) The fact is that more than three quarters of the population are still happy with what Duterte is doing after gaining power.

Many of the comments I have heard, often from Americans or Filipinos living outside the country revolve around the idea of how incredible it is that the world can vote in such a man in this day and age. While I do of course realize that Duterte uses the kind of rhetoric which appeals to the disenfranchised classes in much the same way as many other people who have turned out to be a bad idea, the fact is that he was clear about his intentions ( not so different from how he ran Davao city when he was mayor there, and made it one of the safest cities in the nation as long as you didn’t break the law.) and an incredible majority voted him in and most of those are still happy with him despite the thousands of deaths, so maybe, just maybe the rest of the world should accept that he is a democratically elected leader of a sovereign state and just accept that it is what the nation wants and so it is going to happen and there is not a damn thing you can do about it. You can of course shout your anger from the rooftops but what would be the point?

Let us not forget that when the Western powers wage a war on drugs or terrorism ( yes he is after terrorists in the Philippines as well) it is often the populations of other countries which become the victims, there is rather a large high horse here that many nations may need to clamber off before they start throwing those stones in glass houses.

Has Duterte done and said things which are less than diplomatic and ill-advised? Oh god yes of course he has, that is impossible to dispute but on the other side he is for LGBT and women’s rights while also using less than PC language about both groups. He famously said that he would have no problem with his son coming out as gay, round of applause Mr Duterte!

 Am I a supporter? I really don’t know and frankly I don’t need to be as although I have strong ties to the country I am neither Filipino nor a resident at the moment. What I do know is that before you judge him too harshly at least have a good look at both sides and at your own government as well, your leaders are likely to be more polished and sophisticated but probably more corrupt as well and they will have at least as much blood on their hands, probably much more, albeit less directly.

 Duterte has a proven track record of eradicating corruption when he has power and that is something which cannot be ignored, time will tell wether he lives up to the hype or not but quite frankly I would rather have this man ruling my nation than the options available to the United States at the momen. I prefer open monologue to hidden agendas and political bullshit; this man is going to take the steps he deems necessary to clean up his nation and there is nothing western powers can do about that so let’s all relax a bit. The people who have died and their families rightly have my sympathy but in todays world it needs to be shared among so many others as well, from Syria to Somalia and so many other places. 

Sometimes you need to step away to see the whole picture, I’m not saying be accepting of actions you think are wrong, simply don’t swallow the mainstream media’s portrayal hook, line and sinker. Take a look in your own cultural mirror irrespective of wether you are American, British or any of the other dominating nations of the world and let the country free from sin cast the first stone.

Lucien Grey

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