The Philippines has just completed a momentous presidential election that ended with it electing the country’s equivalent of Donald Trump.
An unofficial count of the Monday night’s vote showed Rodrigo Duterte of the PDP–Laban party easily defeating his rivals, with Duterte finishing about 6 million votes ahead of his nearest rival. Barring some stunning development, Duterte will be the country’s next president, though his main opponent has not yet conceded.
Duterte’s rapid rise to the top of Filipino politics invites ready comparisons to Trump’s abrupt rise to the top of the GOP. Both are maverick politicians and proudly use offensive rhetoric for which they refuse to apologize. Both also make dramatic promises, with Duterte pledging to eradicate corruption the Philippines within six months of taking office. And both have terrified the political establishment of their respective governments, with outgoing Filipino president Benigno Aquino III urging other candidates to united in stopping Duterte.
But there are also key differences between the two.
Unlike Trump, Duterte has long held elected office, serving as mayor of Davao City for three stints totaling over 20 years. During that time, he used extremely tough tactics to suppress crime in the city, winning him nicknames like “the Punisher” and “Duterte Harry.” During his tenure, the so-called “Davao death squads” roamed the city, murdering individuals suspected of dealing drugs or committing other crimes. In recent months, Duterte has openly acknowledged his link to the death squads, and has even suggested that he personally killed several criminals. He has insinuated that “summary execution” remains the most efficient way to deal with crime.
As president, Duterte has boasted that he will execute 100,000 criminals and dump their bodies into the waters of Manila Bay.
“All of you who are into drugs, you sons of bitches, I will really kill you,” Duterte said at his final campaign rally, held Saturday in Manila. “I have no patience, I have no middle ground, either you kill me or I will kill you idiots.”
Duterte claims his violent policies have been effective (a claim his opponents dispute), and much of his appeal is based on his promise to apply the same methods nationwide to root out corrupt officials and bring peace to what is overall a quite violent country. Duterte has suggested that he will dismiss Congress if gets in the way of his agenda, fanning fears that he will bring an end to the country’s fragile democracy.
Besides his policies, Duterte also stands out for routinely making inflammatory and controversial remarks. In April, video surfaced of Duterte joking about the 1989 rape and murder of an Australian missionary.
“I was angry she was raped, yes that was one thing,” he said. “But she was so beautiful, I think the mayor should have been first. What a waste.”
A proud womanizer, Duterte has said he has “two wives and two girlfriends.” In the heavily Catholic country, Duterte says he has temporarily “forfeited” his religion in order to carry out his political duties.
“If I obey the Ten Commandments or listen to priests, I would not be able to do anything as a mayor,” he said in January.
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