On June 30, Rodrigo Duterte will take over from outgoing President Benigno Aquino for a term of six years. His main agenda is to eradicate corruption and criminality within six months of office. He wants to bring back death penalty and promises to give dictator Ferdinand Marcos a hero’s burial.
“As I have said in the miting de avance, my parting words was that, ‘if you destroy my country, I will kill you. If you destroy the youth of this country, I will kill you’.”
This is incoming Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte during a thanksgiving rally in his hometown Davao City.
As he sends his message to drug pushers, criminals and policemen who take bribes from drug syndicates, the crowd cheered to their new hero, their David who is ready to slay Goliath.
He ups the ante by calling on ordinary citizens to arrest suspected criminals.
“Feel free to call us, the police or do it yourself if you have the gun. You have my support,” he encourages.
|TOUGH LOVE. Incoming Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte will be sworn in office on June 30, 2016. He has promise to eradicate criminality by all means within six months. PHOTO FROM OFFICIAL DUTERTE FACEBOOK PAGE|
Journalist Redempto Anda thinks the bounty pronouncement is dangerous.
“The bounty issue is a very dangerous issue. I think he will going to have a lot of issues with Congress on this because as a policy, war on crime has not worked, not in Colombia, not in United States. In Davao, it is claimed to have worked but if you look really deep into it, it’s an arguable thing,” he says.
Many Filipinos have a fear for crime, particularly drug related.
Duterte claims that as mayor he has rid Davao City of criminality, with the help of vigilantes who extrajudicially kill suspected criminals and drug pushers.
|MESSIAH: Duterte addresses an engaging crowd of supporters who find him the saviour of all ills plaguing this Southeast Asian nation. PHOTO FROM OFFICIAL DUTERTE FACEBOOK PAGE|
“He promised killing, killing, killing. You cannot right a wrong with another wrong. I am not for extrajudicial killings. We have our constitution, we have our laws. If we must stop criminality and drugs and corruption in his country, we cannot avoid going through the long process of education,” Jane says.
The 71-year-old Duterte is colorful, outlandish, and occasionally uses vulgar language and sexist jokes.
But for his supporters, he is as the messiah who can solve the ills plaguing the Philippines.
“A lot of Filipinos are looking for a saviour. They think somebody like Duterte can really stop corruption, drugs and criminality in 3 to 6 months. Nobody in the past has ever promised something like that. And people in their disillusionment and their feeling so helpless, they really pinned a lot of hopes on Duterte,” says the civil society activist Jane Urbanek.
Duterte is also toying with the idea of bringing the death penalty back.
Meanwhile, at the office of Roots of Health, a local NGO catering to poor and marginalised women.
Amina Evangelista-Swanepoel, the director, says she is very much against death penalty.
“So many studies from all over the world have shown that the death penalty is not a deterrent to crime. (7:18-7:35) My biggest problem with death penalty and why I don’t support it is because it is not full-proof. I think there’s always a chance that somebody did not do the crime but will be killed for it. And even if that’s a minority, one person’s life is enough to stand against it,” she reasons.
There are fears that Duterte is more of a divisive figure than a unifier.
He prefers to have a separate inauguration from incoming vice president Robredo on June 30, the first time in history.
He also won’t give Robredo a Cabinet position. In the past, vice-presidents got posts regardless of party-affiliation. Duterte explains why.
“I am non-committal…You know why? I know Bongbong Marcos. I do not want to hurt him. Leni should understand that she belongs to the opposite side,” he says.
Bongbong, the son of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, lost to Robredo by a very slim margin.
Duterte is keen on giving Bongbong a cabinet position after a one-year ban on losing candidates.
Journalist Redempto Anda explains Duterte’s relationship with the Marcoses.
“There’s a natural link between Duterte and the Marcoses, his father being part of the Marcos administration. He has made up his mind to be really cozy with the Marcoses and he is not transparent about these things.”
Duterte also commits to give Bongbong’s father a hero’s burial.
Marcos’ Martial Law years were marred with killings and tortures.
He was accused of amassing billions of dollars, a big portion is still believed to be hidden in offshore accounts.
Marcos’ waxed remains are kept in a family mausoleum in their home province of Ilocos.
Again, for journalist Dempto Anda, this is a contentious idea.
“This will be one of the major issues that will divide not just the country but can even divide his own organisation. In his own organisation, not everybody is on the same page, it seems.”
Sensitive to criticisms, Duterte has a reputation of snapping at critics rather than engaging them.
He is the complete opposite of incoming vice-president Robrero.
Robredo is seen as a silver lining to the election of populist but obviously flawed Duterte.
NGO leader Amina Swanepoel says Duterte has lost a golden chance for bypassing Robredo.
“I do think it’s a missed opportunity for him because she was chosen by the people as well. She is incredibly popular and she is a very capable leader, with good experience and has had good policies that have improved the lives of her constituents and I she think she can do a lot on a large scale as vice president.”
Most of Duterte´s plans involve domestic issues and not much on foreign policy.
The least he has said is a bilateral discussion with China over the South China Sea dispute.
Under the Aquino administration, the Philippines is the first country to challenge China at the Permanent Tribunal of Arbitration in the Hague, Netherlands.
The decision is expected to come out this month.
Whether Duterte will follow through with the decision of the tribunal or deal with China bilaterally remains to be seen.