New Philippines President Duterte talks tough, but “He’s not like Donald Trump”
Iligan City, Mindanao, Philippines – The recent election of Rodrigo Duterte as president of The Philip-pines (GRP) is a defeat for the pro-U.S. group of wealthy families that have always run the country. Here in Iligan City, there is an outpouring of the hopes from people about what the election could mean.
When Iliganons are told that the U.S. mainstream media portrays Duterte as a Filipino version of Donald Trump, they roll their eyes. “He is not like Trump. Trump is a bully,” said a woman named Dorie, a history teacher.
But it isn’t just the corporate-owned media, and the corporate compliant National Public Radio, that have the impression of Duterte as a Trump-style, right-wing populist. Many progressive activists in the U.S. got that idea, reinforced by the fact that in his first weeks in office, there were 60 deaths of crimi-nals in the Philippines. This came after he had pledged to kill thousands of members of drug gangs dur-ing his campaign. In the U.S., this kind of tough-on-crime talk is characteristic of racist politicians who use it to crack down on the human rights of oppressed people.
According to supporters of Duterte in the Philippines, the situation here – and this politician – is differ-ent. The National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) issued a statement welcoming “President Duterte’s call for cooperation with the revolutionary forces against widespread drug trafficking.” The revolutionary movement has a long history of dealing firmly with drug dealing in areas where the movement has popular support, including the use of revolutionary justice to deal with the biggest drug dealers.
In the view of the NDFP, the worst drug criminals are the top officers in the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines. This view syncs with the new president’s statement last week identifying three active and two retired generals in the Philippine National Police as protectors of drug gangs. Another Iliganon clarified, “Duterte has to talk tough because he has to discipline the generals and local officials.” In distinction from Trump the bully, Duterte talks tough because he is addressing himself to bullies.
There is a drug crisis in the Philippines, which has received little to no attention in U.S. media. Several people I interviewed talked about shabu, the local name for methamphetamine. “Shabu was sold in the market like rice,” said Dorie. In some cities, this has already stopped since the new president was inaugurated.