Yes…and no.

It’s very easy for us to sit half a world away and throw stones at Duterte…but there’s more to the story than many people realize. He shouldn’t be compared to Trump at all, for Trump is by every objective measure a bully and a coward, whereas Duterte can and often is a bully…but a quick look at his career shows he’s obviously not a coward. Look also at some of the things he did as mayor of Davao, which is in one of the most dangerous provinces in the Philippines:

Duterte also passed the city’s Women Development Code, which aims “to uphold the rights of women and the belief in their worth and dignity as human beings”. Duterte banned swimsuit competitions in beauty pageants in Davao City. Duterte also gained prominence for supporting the first-ever Gawad Kalinga Village inside a jail facility which is only located in Davao City. It is a home-type jail with ten cottages built inside the compound, which now serve as home for women inmates.

Another known accomplishment was that the City Government of Davao was able to acquire 10 more ambulances for central 911 intended for medical emergencies and 42 new mobile patrol vehicles and motorcycles for the Davao City Police Office (the first and only 9–1–1 emergency telephone number in Asia which is also free of charge). Duterte, through Executive Order №24, ordered all shopping malls and commercial centers to install, operate and maintain high end and high definition closed circuit television (CCTV) cameras at all entrance and exit points of their premises.

(On a side note, if one dials 911–11–11 in Manila, one doesn’t get EMS, but Pizza Hut. I’m not kidding!)

The point is this: the Philippines faces problems that most Americans don’t even dream of, and so it is wrong to expect that the problems there can be solved in the way that we would solve it in America (as we should have learned already in Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq). For instance, the traffic cops are paid very little, and in order to afford food, shelter, and clothing, they are also paid commissions on the tickets they issue. Problem is, the commissions take up to two months to process, so it is assumed by everyone that any cop will take a bribe…for those bribes really are what puts food on the table for the cop’s family that very night. When Filipinos come to America, one of the biggest shocks they get is when they are told that no, they can’t bribe their way out of tickets here, but they’ll get tossed in jail for even trying to do so!

This kind of endemic corruption is found at all levels of the government. I’ve even paid a judge to get my brother-in-law out of jail. It seemed to be no big deal at all to do so.

I could go on all day about the corruption there, but when it comes to Duterte, yes, he’s being cruel…but so was Lee Kuan Yew, the man who transformed Singapore from a corrupt, poverty-ridden slum into what many consider the most beautiful (and certainly the cleanest) city in the world. Apparently following Yew’s example, Duterte shut down the most popular tourist destination (Boracay) for a year in order to clean up the ubiquitous trash and litter that is found on almost every road and sidewalk and beach in the Philippines (as is the case in most third-world nations).

What’s more, with Trump’s idiocy resulting in our loss of influence in the region, Duterte is leading the Philippines in a pivot to China, feeling (with much justification) that China will invest much more in the Philippines than America will in the future.

The key is this: Duterte has already stated that he wants to end his presidency and will do so if there is someone he can trust to take over after him. He honestly doesn’t want to stay in power. How many power-mad dictators have ever done that, short of being threatened by military force or bribed to do so?

No, Duterte’s no Trump…but as cruel and inhuman as some of his actions have been, he’s much closer to being of the mold of Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew. Much of the population there understands that, and this is the reason why he’s still very popular among the people…or at least the ones whose family members (whether guilty or innocent) have not been collateral damage in his war on corruption and drugs.

Written by

Retired Navy. Inveterate contrarian. If I haven’t done it, I’ve usually done something close.

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