Lo­cal Filipino com­mu­nity weighs in on con­tro­ver­sial pres­i­dent

The Drumheller Mail - - SPORTS - Kyle Smylie The Drumheller Mail

Ever hear of Ro­drigo Duterte? Prob­a­bly not. Rarely mak­ing head­line news in Cana­dian me­dia, the Philippine’s new Pres­i­dent, nick­named “The Pu­n­isher” by for his hard stance on crime and drug users, is per­haps more con­tro­ver­sial than Trump, and, depend­ing on who you ask, is ei­ther the crime fighter that coun­try needs or just a mass mur­derer.

Duterte was elected Pres­i­dent of the Philip­pines in May of this year in a land­slide vic­tory based on prom­ises to erad­i­cate crime and drug use through­out the en­tire coun­try as he did at his long-time post as Davao City’s mayor. Dur­ing his 22 years as mayor, Duterte turned Davao from the mur­der cap­i­tal of the Philip­pines to one of the safest places in the coun­try, but not with­out nu­mer­ous al­le­ga­tions by hu­man rights or­ga­ni­za­tion of ties be­tween Duterte and a vig­i­lante group called the Davao Death Squad which was re­spon­si­ble for hun­dreds of ex­tra ju­di­cial killings of sus­pected drug deal­ers and petty crim­i­nals. Over the week­end, Duterte threat­ened to leave the United Na­tions after hu­man rights ex­perts crit­i­cized the rise in ex­tra ju­di­cial killings since his elec­tion.

But de­spite this, the over­whelm­ing por­tion of Fil­lipinos seem to be in favour of Duterte, and that in­cludes the hun­dreds of work­ers and ex-pats cur­rently liv­ing in Drumheller, says vice-pres­i­dent of the lo­cal Filipino as­so­ci­a­tion, Bernard Fer­nando.

“Prob­a­bly 95 per cent of the com­mu­nity is in favour of Ro­drigo Duterte for his spe­cial abil­ity to lead the coun­try,” Fer­nando said. “He is not a pu­n­isher, he is a do-er of what he says. He’s se­ri­ous about stop­ping crime and drug use and he’s will­ing to take all the chances and use ev­ery reg­u­la­tion or rule to make it hap­pen.”

Fer­nando has rel­a­tives liv­ing in Davao who now say the city, a port city which was once a ma­jor cen­tre for drug smug­gling and crime, is one of the most de­sir­able in the coun­try.

“To be hon­est with you, the Filipinos world­wide and back home are ex­pect­ing a big dra­matic change for the coun­try and we are all hop­ing the beauty of the coun­try will be re­gained, along with the gov­ern­ment’s dig­nity. He’s con­sid­ered the only hope we have right now.”

Drumheller res­i­dent Oliver Felisilda, a po­lit­i­cal science and Euro­pean stud­ies de­gree holder from Ate­neo de Manila Univer­sity in Manila, the high­est ranked pri­vate school in the Philip­pines, says Duterte should be un­der­stood not as a po­lit­i­cal agent but more as a phe­nom­e­non.

“I be­lieve that he’s the cul­mi­na­tion of decades worth of frus­tra­tion by the Filipino peo­ple... So many prom­ises have been given and not a lot trickle down has been felt. This served as the fuel for pop­ulist nar­ra­tives that pro­pelled his rise to the Pres­i­dency. With this in mind, the over­whelm­ing sup­port from over­seas Filipino work­ers is symp­to­matic of this un­heeded frus­tra­tion. Peo­ple leave the Philip­pines as a ter­mi­nal ef­fort to over­come poverty and had the cir­cum­stances been bet­ter for them at home, they would not have had to risk ev­ery­thing and leave their loved ones for greener pas­tures,” Felisilda said.

Duterte’s con­tro­ver­sial com­ments are nu­mer­ous. He’s been un­der fire for mak­ing rape jokes, openly ad­vo­cated for death squads, threat­ened to dump the bod­ies of 100,000 crim­i­nals in Manila Bay – out­landish state­ments that achieve the im­prob­a­ble feat of mak­ing Trump look ac­cept­able.

“Ev­ery­thing he says is con­tro­ver­sial,” says Fer­nando, “whether it has to do with drugs or other politi­cians. Since he’s a per­son of what he wants to do, things be­come con­tro­ver­sial.”

Felisilda said there are cer­tainly sim­i­lar­i­ties be­tween Duterte and Trump, pri­mar­ily his use of pop­ulist nar­ra­tives.

“Their pol­icy po­si­tions are also un­clear, es­pe­cially when it comes to for­eign af­fairs,” he said. “There is also a strik­ing re­sem­blance to their affin­ity to vi­o­lence as an ex­er­cise of po­lit­i­cal power. Fur­ther­more, they use di­vi­sive dis­course to weave their po­si­tions into the pop­u­lar agenda; even if that means they have to take back their words on some of the pol­icy is­sues they are con­fronted with. This makes them even more dan­ger­ous be­cause there is no telling what they ac­tu­ally in­tend to do and how their friends in power are to ben­e­fit from them.”

“I am of the firm po­si­tion that your love for coun­try can­not be re­al­ized with an empty lib­erty that forces you to choose your free­doms over oth­ers’. I hope that the in­ves­ti­ga­tions cur­rently be­ing con­ducted shed light on the truth be­hind these is­sues. If the Duterte gov­ern­ment is truly will­ing to pave the way to de­vel­op­ment, then it must be un­afraid to con­front the al­le­ga­tions and find a bet­ter way to pur­sue its ob­jec­tives with­out the moral com­pro­mises it so read­ily con­cedes to.”

Ro­drigo Duterte... Pres­i­dent of Philip­pines

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