This message is for non-Filipinos, particularly for Westerners who have long had a dislike for Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte. The Philippines has long had leaders who spoke nicely but couldn’t quite get a lot of the things they wanted to accomplish off the ground. It’s unfortunate, but sometimes, people misconstrue a leader’s “nice style” as license for them to dilly-dally or add confusion to the discussion and fudge it all up so that in the end, nothing gets done, or it all happens way too slowly.
We’ve lost a lot of time as a country because the fixation on saying things diplomatically has unfortunately meant more emphasis on how things are said rather than making sure to get things done.
Filipinos got really really tired of the old situation, and seeing this brusque/gruff no-nonsense guy who got things done and turned things around in his formerly chaotic city (which used to be a killing fields where armed groups/rebels once roamed) and turned it into an oasis of peace, order, and stability made everyone’s heads turn and take notice.
It’s reached a point where Duterte seems to actually be using such thuggish theatrics as part of his act to differentiate himself from the other “more conventional” politicians. Again, I don’t condone tasteless/inappropriate jokes, but part of his effectiveness in getting things done seems to be derived from his “thuggish demeanor” which causes everyone to note that he means business. It’s also why lots of criminals and rebels have surrendered — he plays good cop/bad cop pretty well. When he vowed to lessen red tape and corruption in government, the improvements happened fast simply because everyone within the gov’t hierarchy didn’t want to get his goat.
The Philippines right now needs a character like him to do exactly all the clean-up tasks that no one else wanted to do or was capable of doing. And luckily, he has that rough, gruff, brusque persona to pull it off. Kind of like having a hero in a story whom the bad guys fear because the bad guys feel that he’s credible as a bad guy himself — except that he’s a good guy. A “Good Bad Guy” — The “bad guy” whom you want on your side, not someone that the criminals don’t fear because he’s too polished and clearly unfamiliar with how to deal with them.
As I said in a recent status-update, Duterte’s role in Philippine History is to be the guy who would set things straight and take the smelly trash out that no one wants to touch much less haul out. AFTER Duterte does what he needs to do (do the clean up and fix the lousy system so we can have a much more meritocratic one), then we can concentrate on having presentable/polished leaders since the new system will, by then, facilitate the emergence of competent people at the top as opposed to the current system that has largely given us popular candidates with name-recall who often don’t have the necessary competence.
Duterte isn’t perfect, and he has made sure to deliberately push the idea that he is a flawed, thug-like character, knowing that these imperfections of his do cause the bad elements to fear him. Just the same, majority of Filipinos – including a huge number who didn’t vote for him – now support him because we know he’s exactly what we need at this point in our history.
He is actively pursuing a suite of solid economic and structural constitutional reforms that would improve the Philippines’ job market and drastically improve its economy as the anti-foreign direct investment restrictions of the current constitution are to be removed, and the Philippines re-organized into a Federal-parliamentary system so that the rest of the country prospers and not just the capital, and so that our brand of politics shifts away from the old personality-and-name-recall system towards one that is much more rooted in parties, party manifesto’s, and getting the most competent people to emerge on top.
Sadly, the Filipino oligarchs do not want these reforms to happen. That’s why they will stop at nothing to destroy Duterte’s international reputation by hyping up the deaths of criminals and blaming drug cartel killings on Duterte’s government even if these kinds of things were already happening in even larger numbers during past administrations. (The numbers that have actually swelled due to Duterte’s “carrot & stick” approach are the numbers of VOLUNTARY SURRENDERS by drug personalities — and these people are alive and undergoing rehab and livelihood training.)
The point everyone needs to understand about Duterte is that he’s a GOOD GUY who uses his rough/gruff “thug-like” image to be effective in getting things done. Sadly, the oligarch-owned Philippine press will stop at nothing to feed wrong info to the foreign press in order fool the politically-correct people in the West to think he’s a bad guy so that their own governments avoid dealing with him.
Then again, Lee Kwon Yew had bad press in the West in the 70’s & 80’s (and Mahathir continued to have bad press in the West in the 80’s, 90’s, and even early 2000’s), yet that didn’t stop investors from investing in both Singapore and Malaysia which turned both into the two most dynamic economies in the ASEAN region.
Yes, the rape jokes were bad. We all hated those jokes and wish he avoided making such tasteless jokes because frankly, it’s hard enough defending Duterte in front of clueless Westerners who put cosmetics over and above real results, it’s even harder when he makes a rape joke.
But we support him because if we compared him with all the other alternatives, getting rid of him just because of bad jokes would be like throwing the baby out with the bathwater. For Duterte is by far the most popular president the Philippines has had in the longest time, the only effective politician who is beyond reproach when it comes to integrity, simple living, and being corruption-free. The only politician in decades who has united Filipinos of all tribal origins, linguistic backgrounds, religious and political persuasions.
Only in Duterte have Filipinos from Catholic, Protestant, Evangelical, Secularist, and Muslim backgrounds come together enthusiastically. Only in Duterte have Filipinos of Chinese descent enthusiastically joined in with indigeous and mixed-descent. Only in Duterte have I seen pro-Capitalism advocates, centrists, rightists, and leftists come together and seek common ground. Only in Duterte have I seen Ilocanos, Pangasinenses, Pampangueños, Warays, Ilonggos, Karay-as, Cebuanos, Tausugs, Maranaos, Maguindanaos, and other Bangsamoros and Lumads come together enthusiastically.
NO OTHER PHILIPPINE PRESIDENT has been able to bring so many different Filipinos together. Not only in voting for him, but even in getting so many of those who voted for another candidate to support him all because of his ability to bring crime down, drastically reduce red tape, corruption, and inefficiency in many front-facing government offices, and so many other positive changes that he has done without even bragging about them.
No other Philippine President has been so enthusiastically supported by people of different orientations, be they Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, or Straight. Most of you might have thought that a gruff, rough, brusque thug-like guy who sometimes cracks inappropriate locker-room jokes would be anathema to the LGBT and the gender-equality crowd, but lo and behold, not only is Duterte responsible for placing in some of the most pro-LGBT and women’s rights-friendly legislation in his home city of Davao, some of Duterte’s most famous online defenders are from the LGBT community themselves. These are dear friends and comrades of mine with whom I continue to collaborate. Why would they go for Duterte if he was bad for them?
This is the magic of Duterte. People who would normally be thought of as “marginalized” or “minorities” in Philippine society enthusiastically support and defend him.
So many LGBTs are so vocally supportive of him. Provincial rural “country-bumpkins” are extremely vocally supportive of him. Filipino Muslims/Bangsamoros are very vocally supportive of him. In fact, during the last election campaign in 2016, so many Filipino Muslim traders who run pearl-jewelry stalls and DVD shops in many cities in islands like Luzon and other places were known to have campaigned enthusiastically for Duterte. Friends of mine told me how Bangsamoro traders would offer huge discounts and freebies to customers who were wearing Duterte T-shirts and wristbands, saying “Thanks for supporting Duterte, brother.”
Duterte’s style has often been to talk a lot about fighting crime – because of the need to scare criminals into surrendering voluntarily and giving up crime through such hype, but when it comes to many of the truly tangible improvements his leadership has brought about, he rarely announces them and instead Filipinos end up talking about the great strides they’ve experienced first-hand through the grape-vine.
Those improvements in government processes, such as lessening inefficiency and cutting red tape were made known largely as the result of ordinary people just talking about their experiences of better service and shorter waiting times and the word spreading by word of mouth and via social media.
When Duterte first visited China and sweet-talked the Chinese into withdrawing from Scarborough Shoal, he didn’t immediately announce that the Chinese would withdraw. He simply said that they’ve talked about it and they’ll take action. He didn’t brag about it. Just one day, fishermen tried going to Scarborough Shoal and then voila, the Chinese coast guard and other ships that guarded it during the stand-off were all gone. Filipino fishermen could easily fish at the shoal.
Ultimately, he just lets his accomplishments speak for themselves.
So yeah, he’s got a potty-mouth, he’s got more of the “Tommy Lee Jones” bad-guy look as opposed to the polished goodie-two-shoes type look that the elitists want in their leaders, and he cracks really bad and sometimes totally inappropriate jokes and wisecracks… But there’s more to him than all those petty things that they prissy politically-correct “SJW” snowflakes don’t like.
Truly, getting rid of him just because of petty imperfections (bad jokes) in light of all the other positive traits and achievements and the fact that a “good bad guy” like him is exactly what the Philippines needs right now really does smack of idiotically throwing the baby out with the bathwater. We don’t want that. No one’s perfect. We won’t get rid of a really good leader – the type of leader we need at this point in our history – just because of some imperfections, considering the numerous sub-standard alternatives out there…
Please let us Filipinos progress with our chosen president at the helm. You’ve probably already seen the footage of the wild applause and cheers he gets from overseas Filipino communities whenever he visits.
So to all Westerners and foreigners who have this impression of Duterte as if he were a bad guy, sorry folks, you’re totally mistaken about him. He’s a gruff, brusque good guy whose imperfections make him popular with the masses. 80-90 percent of us Filipinos support and defends him. We chose him to be our leader. Please respect our choice.
By Orion D. Perez