Worldbeaters: Rodrigo Duterte

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Worldbeaters: Rodrigo Duterte

He is president of the Philippines, but many people think he is corrupt and part of vigilante politics.


© REUTERS/Alamy Stock Photo

Job: President of the Philippines

Reputation: The ‘Dirty Harry’ of vigilante politics

Rodrigo Duterte won the election in May 2016. People who care about human rights in the Philippines were not happy. Duterte is 71. He is the oldest president ever to go to live in the luxury Malacañang Palace in Manila. He was mayor of Davao City for many years (starting in 1988) and people know him as someone who fights crime but is not very worried about the law. He even allowed killings – many people believe that more than 1,000 people accused of crimes eg. drug crime were illegally killed in Davao when he was mayor. Davao City is in the ‘wild south’ and has many criminal gangs, Islamist separatists and Maoist radicals. He says he changed the city from a murder capital to ‘the safest city in Asia’.

Many people thought Duterte’s election campaign would not succeed because he was homophobic and sexist. But even though he said terrible things eg. that he might join the gang rape of an Australian aid worker, people still supported him. He says he supports LGBTI rights. Many more people came to see him talk than went to see other politicians. Some people compare Duterte to Donald Trump. But Duterte is more than a rich businessman. He comes from Mindanao, one of the poorest parts of the country, and criticizes the 55 rich families in Luzon that have controlled politics there for a long time. He does not like the important rich people – 40 families control about 76 per cent of the wealth of the country. He prefers to speak the Visayan dialect or English with an accent than Tagalog (that rich people in Manila speak). He says he is a man of the people. He has often refused important jobs in governments he does not trust. He is a nationalist and he is happy to disagree with the Chinese (about land in the South China Sea) and the Americans (about military control).

He wants poorer parts of the country to have more power in politics. He is against the traditional Left/Right division: he said he would give jobs to people who used to be communists in sensitive areas eg. farming reform and social welfare. Even the Maoist Communist Party supports Duterte. He says the most important thing to do is to reduce poverty. But his plans are often vague, open and say opposite things. His opinions often change.

Duterte is like many other ‘strongmen’ of anti-politics, from Budapest to Moscow. Most of these are men (except Marine Le Pen) and are often not politically correct. They offer simple solutions to complicated problems and usually do not succeed. Afterwards, the country has to end democracy to stop people disagreeing. Remember what Duterte said after his election, about murdered journalists: ‘Just because you’re a journalist, this doesn’t mean you can’t be killed … most of those killed, to be honest, have done something. You won’t be killed if you don’t do anything wrong.’

Clever?: Duterte says is fights for the people against the rich. But he says he wants good businesses, but also says he will kill trade unions and laws if they stop him doing what he wants.

Humour?: The way Duterte speaks is called ‘bugalbugal’ in Tagalog. It is half serious and half laughing at others. He often says he will murder people who stop him. He is not always serious, but he has murdered people in the past, so people don’t know.

Sources: Jacobin; The Guardian;; Wikipedia;;;;

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