Philippine People Get the Change They Wanted But They Risk Losing All Hope

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s term of office began at noon on June 30, 2016, when he became the 16th President of the Philippines. 71 years of age on election day, Duterte is also the oldest ever elected to the office.


During his more than two decades as mayor of Davao City, the controversial politician transformed the city from a haven of lawlessness into one of the safest areas in Southeast Asia. Duterte’s harsh crime-fighting tactics earned him the nicknames “the Punisher” and “Duterte Harry” (in reference to the film character Dirty Harry, the ruthlessly effective police inspector portrayed by actor Clint Eastwood), but critics such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch claimed that Duterte was responsible for more than 1,000 extrajudicial killings. Rather than denying such allegations, he embraced them. The death squads that had carried out the killings operated with an impunity that implied official sanction, and Duterte openly praised both their methods and their apparent results. In that way he cultivated the image of a coarse pistol-toting vigilante in the months leading up to the presidential election. His anti-establishment message took hold among a Filipino public weary of official corruption, and his brash over-the-top rhetoric led to comparisons of him to U.S. Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump.

Encyclopedia Britannica | Rodrigo Duterte, PRESIDENT OF THE PHILIPPINES

His penchant for in-your-face action draws the comparison with U.S. President Donald Trump, but the comparison stops there. Unlike the U.S. president, Duterte sidesteps the Rule of Law in his war on drugs in the first six months of his first term during which time over 6,000 Philippians were killed, most by vigilante groups. One campaign promise was promise to “fatten all the fish” in Manila Bay with the bodies of criminals. I suppose there are indeed a lot of fat fish in Manila Bay.

The Filipino public, weary of decades of political corruption and rampant drug-related problems, resoundingly came to his support in the 2019 elections. Pro-Duterte lawmakers now dominate both houses of Congress.

Initially, Duterte responded defiantly toward communist China’s aggressive takeover of the contested Spratly Islands. However, his disdain for the United States of America has turned him toward favor toward China and Russia.

As reported in Stars And Stripes, Duterte’s defiant stance toward the U.S. is in opposition to the desires of Filipino military leaders.

The University of Central Arkansas Political Science Department provides a concise history of U.S.-Philippine relations: United States/Philippines (1898-1946)


There are parallels between the history of the Philippines and Cuba.

  • both were Spanish colonies liberated from Spain by the U.S.
  • both endured widespread criminality
  • the populations of both became weary of crime and official corruption, leaving their respective citizens eager for change
  • communism
    • Cuba, and island nation, became a vassal state to Russia after a constitutional lawyer – Fidel Castro – promised hope and change, overthrew the democratically-elected government. Cuba has been communist since 1959.
    • The Philippines, a nation of over 7,100 islands, if left to the whims of Rodrigo Duterte, will become a vassal state to communist China.
  • Cubans got the change and lost hope
  • If communist China gains control of the Philippines, the Philippine people will also lose all hope.

Is a win-win deal in the works for U.S.-Philippine relations? I pray this to be so.

John White
Rockwall, Texas

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