When Rodrigo Duterte won the presidential election in the Philippines in May 2016, it caused controversy. Notorious for his scandalous remarks, Duterte has made jokes about raping women, boasted about having several wives and girlfriends, and called President Barack Obama the “son of a whore.” Despite his controversial campaign, Duterte’s election was the result of the frustrations of many older, working-class nationalistic Filipinos.
Many parallels can be drawn between Trump and Duterte: Both of their voter bases relied on people who were frustrated at where their countries were heading. Duterte supporters were sick of the poverty and corruption that has long been the center of many Filipino political institutions and his election was a sign of hopeful change in a new direction. However, when he officially took office on June 30, his presidency set off a media and national sensation.
Combatting the drug war in the Philippines is Duterte’s central platform and Duterte enforces violence by the police forces to eliminate the drug dealers. Over 6,000 drug dealers or users have been killed, more than 2,000 were killed in operations and another 4,000 have died from vigilante or extrajudicial killings, according to USA Today.
Duterte believes he underestimated how big the drug problem was when he took office which is why he is continuing the drug war. Some are dubbing this the “golden age” of the Filipino police.
Violence now consumes many of the streets and his bloody efforts to fight drugs have some questioning whether or not he is violating human rights. The United Nations high commissioner for human rights, Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein told the New York Times that Duterte should be formally investigated by the Filipino authorities for his past murders. Daniel Berehulak of the New York Times just published a multimedia essay of photographs that showed some of the killings. One Filipino resident admitted the police is “slaughtering them like animals.”
Whether or not Duterte will win with his “eye for an eye,” militaristic approach remains to be seen. He claims to be afraid his country will turn to a narco-state but policy experts insist that killing and jailing the problem away are not effective solutions.
Still, one cannot deny that Duterte has made reforming the country a big priority. According to Fortune, he is dedicated to creating more partnerships with China, with China promising to loan the Philippines billions of dollars in infrastructure loans and help expand farm and fisheries imports; he has helped improve the economy which is expected to increase 6.5-7.5 percent this year; and in the fall, Pulse Asia Research Inc. researched that his approval rating is at 86 percent.
Indeed, Duterte is making changes that will forever change history. He wants to close ties with the United States, a country which the Philippines has had a longstanding relationship with. In many ways, Duterte’s election in the Philippines foreshadowed the phenomenon of the 2016 American Presidential election because both men are outlandish and extreme in the way they execute policies.
With the elections of Trump and Duterte, it symbolizes how rising nationalism is becoming more popular in global politics. In India, Narendra Modi was once seen as an extreme Hindu Nationalist politician but is now the prime minister. Brexit was another huge global event that showed England’s shift to “taking back their country.”
Historian Arthur Schlesinger once noted that American politics is a pendulum and who we elect represents a “national mood.” It seems this cyclical theory can be applied anywhere in politics. Whichever way the pendulum swings next will entirely be up to the people in that country. No matter what, let’s make these decisions count.
What do you think of Duterte’s drug war and a rising nationalism in global politics? Is it heading in the “right’ direction? Tweet @issabasco.