Duterte: High on Power?

I’d be happy to slaughter them. At least if Germany had Hitler, the Philippines would have (me). You know my victims, I would like (them) to be all criminals, to finish the problem of my country and save the next generation from perdition.“This is not what one expects to hear from a democratically elected ruler, yet that is Rodrigo Duterte, the elected president of the Philippines. That quote surprisingly and perfectly illustrates why he was elected, not the killing of millions of people, but the reason he wants them killed. Drugs.

Duterte’s main platform for election and his focus since his first day as president has been the war on drugs. He blames many of the problems that Filipinos have on drugs, and as one can clearly see from his career as mayor of Davos and as president he has no problem going outside of the law as long as it ends with drug users, dealers and pushers dead or behind bars. But he has faced criticism for this. As he said in his inauguration speech; “I know that there are those who do not approve of my methods of fighting criminality, the sale and use of illegal drugs and corruption. They say that my methods are unorthodox and verge on the illegal”. Since he was mayor these he has been in support of extrajudicial killings. People have been murdered without trial for being even suspected of dealing, using or pushing drugs. He has been admitted to taking part in these killings himself; “I killed about three of them… I don’t know how many bullets from my gun went inside their bodies. It happened and I cannot lie about it.” Since taking office more than 9,000 people have been killed in this drug war. But despite this carnage his policy remains somewhat popular.

It is difficult to be certain about Duterte’s popularity in the Philippines because although many people cite his popularity rating as the highest in decades they have only had five previous presidents to compare to, and his ratings have usually been only a few points higher than his predecessors. Although the approval rating for his war on drugs is high the percent of people concerned about his extrajudicial mass killings is higher. With 84% saying they were satisfied with his war on drugs and 94% expressed concern over killing suspects rather than giving them a proper trial. Even though he is an elected leader he did not win a majority of the votes. In the Philippines the person who has the most votes wins the election regardless of whether or not they have a majority. Dutere got 38.5% of the vote.

There are many things other than murder going on under the Duetere administration that seem to be in violation of their Constitution, such as that regarding Article III, Section 4; freedom of speech. One of his biggest critics and chair of the Philippines human rights commission, Senator Leila De Lima, was jailed on drug charges 6 months into Duterte’s presidency. She also led the investigation into extrajudicial killings in Davos while Duterte was mayor. Many people believe that this is suppression of her free speech by attempting to intimidate her into silence. This also eliminates any chance of Duterte being targeted by the human rights commission. Even though Duterte has committed several human rights atrocities, because their chair, DeLima, is in jail it is doubtful that the other members of the human rights commission will do anything for fear of being jailed themselves.

Duterte is fairly clearly a populist authoritarian, giving permission to the government and vigilantes to kill with no proof of crime and jailing anyone who dares to oppose him. The mob may be behind his drug war now but, perhaps if he expends this policy to more than just the war on drugs, the people will start to turn on him. Duetere’s fate lies in how hungry he is for power.

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