Philip­pines Pres­i­dent Duterte di­vides opin­ion but fans re­main stead­fast

7 Days in Dubai - - FRONT PAGE - By Glaiza Godinez and Ma­hak Man­nan @7DAYSUAE

In the three months since Ro­drigo Duterte took of­fice as Pres­i­dent of the Philip­pines he has di­vided opin­ion af­ter spear­head­ing a con­tro­ver­sial crack­down on drug deal­ers that has led to the ex­tra-ju­di­cial killing of hun­dreds.

And last week he made head­lines across the globe for in­sult­ing US Pres­i­dent Barack Obama, which led to the can­cel­la­tion of a key meet­ing be­tween them in Laos.

But there re­mains fierce sup­port for the ex-pros­e­cu­tor – dubbed ‘Dirty Harry’ for his tough stance on crime, in­clud­ing among expats in the UAE.

7DAYS spoke to vot­ers who gave their verdict on his time in of­fice so far, with al­most all say­ing their sup­port re­mains un­changed.

Tack­ling the coun­try’s crime epi­demic is more im­por­tant than diplo­macy, many said.


Japs Hern­dan­dez, 35, who works in health in­sur­ance in Dubai, said sup­port­ers are not fazed by diplo­matic gaffes.

He said: “He is a work­ing pres­i­dent and he is un­ortho­dox. He comes across as very abra­sive and undiplo­matic but at the end of the day, re­sults mat­ter. De­spite the noise, he has ac­com­plished a lot in less than three months. And, like he has said, Filipinos are his only mas­ter.”

He added: “As far as the US and Obama goes, de­spite all the neg­a­tive press paint­ing Duterte as Trump-es­que, I took it as pos­i­tive.

“It made world head­lines and sent a mes­sage that we have a strong leader who will not back down to any­one, even to the most pow­er­ful man in the world.

“I do not agree with ev­ery­thing he says and does. But I can see gen­uine love for the coun­try and po­lit­i­cal will. Those two traits are why he is so pop­u­lar I think.”


Low­ell Ian An­quino, 33, a den­tal as­sis­tant, said: “I voted for him and so far I am happy with how fast he has brought about changes on the right track, which the pre­vi­ous ad­min­is­tra­tions took too long to take ac­tion against.

“He is hum­ble, pro-poor, anti-oli­garch and a peo­ple’s per­son, a true pub­lic ser­vant, a far cry from what he is known for – cursing Obama.”

Dell Adri­ano Celeri­dad, 46, a writer work­ing in Dubai, was among those to sug­gest that Duterte’s curses about Obama can be “lost in trans­la­tion”.

She said: “He may say stuff which when trans­lated could mean some­thing else aw­ful, but those are his ex­pres­sions. “He is def­i­nitely a no-non­sense tough man.” Among the strong­est sup­port­ers of Duterte are from Davao, whose low crime rate he takes credit for, in a coun­try be­set by vi­o­lence.

He­len An­drade, 36, an ac­count man­ager for a com­pany in Dubai, said: “As some­one who was born and grew up in Davao, I still be­lieve in the sin­cer­ity of Pres­i­dent Duterte and his in­ten­tions to do good for the coun­try. Call him what­ever you want but it won’t change the fact that in just 60 days in of­fice, he was able to do things past pres­i­dents were not able to in six years.”


But sup­port for Duterte is not univer­sal and some expats said Duterte has brought em­bar­rass­ment with his diplo­matic rows.

On the 7DAYS Face­book page, Re­bel­los Paci­fico wrote: “Duterte so far is a big dis­as­ter, he has no clue about diplo­macy and how to act like a diplo­mat. His war on drugs in the Philip­pines al­ready killed 3,000… without due process.”

Duterte – who will serve a six-year term – has shrugged off re­cent crit­i­cism and vowed to con­tinue his war on crime.

SUP­PORT: Vot­ers flocked to Duterte in the May elec­tions. The pop­ulist can­di­date se­cured al­most twice the num­ber of votes as his near­est ri­val.

SUP­PORT: Davao-born He­len said Duterte vir­tu­ally wiped out crime in her city

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