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Rodrigo Duterte is Keeping Nationalism Alive in the Philippines

During WWII the Philippines were transitioning to self-rule, focusing on achieving freedom while also proving to the US that they knew what was right for their country. This assertiveness that was developing paved the way for nationalism in the Philippines. However, after they had achieved their independence, the country and it’s leaders began moving in the direction of building their international relationships. The government put their focus towards building up their economy and global achievements so that they could become a strong country that other weaker countries would look to for support.

Author George Orwell argued that “ ‘The abiding purpose of every nationalist is to secure more power and more prestige, not for himself but for the nation or other unit in which he has chosen to sink his own individuality’ ”. The President of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte, portrays both patriotic and nationalistic tendensies. He shows love towards the Philippines, making him a patriot, but he also strives for independence and has a strong desire for power that he can’t break away from, making him a nationalist. When addressing the public in December 2019, President Duterte stated that the Philippines needs to “keep the embers of nationalism alive”. 

President Duterte often makes outrageous comments. He has “joked about not being able to join the gang rape of an Australian missionary, cursed out the Pope, called both US President Obama and the US Ambassador to the Philippines a “son of a bitch,” and told police they can kill drug dealers if they fight back”. He has faced great criticism from the US and the EU after making comments about his similarities to Hitler. Critics have both stated their concerns about his war on drugs and the allegations against him regarding killings apparent. But these comments have only angered Duterte. 

The President frequently likens himself to Adolf Hitler. He has made claims that he wants to kill millions of drug addicts in order to help rid the country of crime, just as Hitler did with the Jewish population during WWII. In 2015, Duterte went live on TV and confirmed that he was a part of a “death squad” and threatened that if he were to be elected president he would “kill thousands more criminals and dump them into Manila Bay”. When running for President in 2016, he campaigned strongly against crime, focusing mostly on the presence of drugs in the Philippines. From the time he took office in June 2016 to September 2016, his police officers had killed hundreds of suspected drug users.Sources report that as of June 2020, tens of thousands of people may have been killed during the president’s declared war on drugs. 

This war on drugs was introduced when Duterte won the presidency in 2016. He made promises that he would rid the Philippines of drugs. This declaration has led to “widespread and systematic extrajudicial killings”. During a speech in 2018, the President admitted his role in the killings, saying “What is my sin? Did I steal even one peso? Did I prosecute somebody who I ordered jailed? My sin is extrajudicial killings”. Government officials in the Philippines attempted to retract the President’s statements, saying that he was being “playful”. But, Duterte has been caught making statements similar to those in the past. During a campaign rally in 2015, he stated that “If I became president, you [alleged criminals] should hide. I would kill all of you who make the lives of Filipinos miserable. I will definitely kill you. I do not want to commit this crime. But if by chance per chance God will place me there, stay on guard because that 1,000 [killed in Davao City] will become 100,000.” And, just months after his election win in 2016, he had made more claims of responsibility. During a press conference he responded, “Extrajudicial killing? I will do the explanation in public for international release if you want. For the things that really happened during the criminals and the police in operations – punitive operations, police action – I am willing to answer all of them. I assume full responsibility for what happened because I was the one who ordered it.” 

His anti-drug agenda has resulted in the deaths of thousands of men, women, and children since took office. Now adding to these public statements, The International Criminal Court is able to conduct a preliminary examination regarding Duterte’s possible humanitarian crimes. Domestic and international efforts are being put into motion to ensure that he is held responsible for his role in these deaths.