This week, the Philippines voted in Rodrigo “Digong” Duterte as the island country’s next President. Known as the “Trump of the Philippines,” Duterte is known for his extreme views against violence, potential involvement with death squads and, most recently, his joke about rape.
Known for political dynasties filled with corruption, Duterte seemed a logical candidate to clean up the Philippines, particularly in violent regions. The new President’s home city, Davao, is the third-largest metropolitan area in the Philippines and saw a drop in crime during Duterte’s time as mayor. His 10-year term as mayor saw stability in a city surrounded by unstable and often violent neighborhoods.
It’s no wonder why Duterte has taken the Philippines by storm: He promises action in a country where 25 percent of the population lives below the poverty line. He has a hard stance against criminals – once quoting he will “execute 100,000 criminals in Manila and dump their bodies in the bay.”
What, then, was the motivation behind voting him into office?
If we step down from our pedestal of American democracy, the world can be a scary, threatening place. Not every country is granted international exceptionalism with a powerful economy, well-funded military and a generally transparent political system. The rising crime rates, creeping Chinese presence and stagnant economy are all reasons that may have swayed the Filipino populace into voting for a such a strong-willed politician. No longer satisfied with waiting for the system to evolve, they want action. Change.
Although one can argue that the new president will be detrimental to Filipino politics, we also have to think of the precedent this election shows. After centuries of colonization, this election is an action taken by a sovereign nation-state trying to define itself in the twenty-first century. The 39 percent of the population that voted in favor of Duterte came to the consensus that something needed to change in their country. Whether this be by a stronger and more active military or a more aggressive foreign policy, it was the Filipino people who decided which direction their country will be headed.
This choice might not match up to our American ideals, but let’s hope that the election in the Philippines isn’t a reflection of our election this year.