The president of the Philippines is often ruthless and outrageous, but the Filipino people seem to love him, according to an East Asian Forum report.
Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte has been accused of running death squads and ordering the murders of over 1,000 people. He has exploded in foul-mouthed tirades against world leaders, countries, and international organizations. He also orchestrated a drug war that ended the lives of more than 3,000 people. He has promised to kill tens of thousands, even millions of people.
Many people abroad see Duterte as a tyrant, a murderer, or a foul-mouthed clown, but in the eyes of many Filipino people, the man represents much needed change in a country plagued by countless problems.
The Philippines president had a record-high trust rating of 91 percent among the Filipino electorate at the end of July.
Duterte is credited with significantly lowering crime rates in his hometown of Davao during his stint as mayor. Duterte’s nickname, the “Punisher,” and a recent testimony from a hitman who allegedly served under Duterte as a member of the Davao Death Squad suggests that the crime reduction may have been achieved at gunpoint. After taking office, Duterte launched a “shoot-to-kill” drug war to eradicate drug criminals in society, and thousands of drug criminals have perished since.
For Filipino people, many of whom have seen firsthand the impact that the methamphetamine shabu and other illegal drugs can have on their communities, the president’s firm-handed approach has been very well received.
“The killings are OK. There will be less criminals, drug pushers and drug addicts in our society,” one Duterte supporter told the Philippine Star. The killings “may be a necessary evil in the pursuit of the greater good,” explained Economic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia.
Duterte also connects with the Filipino electorate in a way that past leaders have not. “The Philippines has long suffered at the hands of politicians’ preoccupation with pomp, pageantry and being profoundly out of touch with the electorate,” wrote British-Filipina journalist and filmmaker Joanna Fuertes-Knight. As mayor, Duterte railed against the administration for its inaction. Duterte appears determined to avoid following in the footsteps of his predecessors.
Duterte also enjoys majority support in the legislature, among police and military personnel, and with civilian service groups.
The Philippine National Police approves of Duterte’s aggressive anti-crime agenda. Almost all of Duterte’s speeches are delivered to military audiences, mending the military-government ties left tattered by previous administrations. The president also is giving greater power to progressives in civil service divisions dedicated to social advancement.
Several opposition figures have attempted to stop the president’s firebrand approach to domestic and foreign policy, but none have been able to hit the breaks on Duterte’s programs.
Starting as a political outsider, Duterte rose from relative anonymity and amassed an impressive amount of power. He is the country’s most powerful leader since Ferdinand Marcos, but critics note that Duterte’s extreme approaches must result in positive change for the Philippines if he expects his followers to remain loyal.
“I think the threshold has to do with the delivery of promises,” Jayeel Cornelio, the director of Ateneo de Manila University’s Development Studies Program, told the Philippine Star. “Are changes going to happen sooner or later? If they don’t, then people will start getting disillusioned.”
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