Duterte: Do Not Judge The Book By Its Cover
Duterte, the current president of the Republic of the Philippines has recently got the attention of the international media due to his provocative and seemingly senseless statements about Obama, the American president. Many who are not used to his language has considered his actions as a political and diplomatic blunder, which could adversely affect the entire Filipino nation. However, inspite of this, many Filipinos still back him as evidenced by active engagement of loyal supporters in social media in various forums. Ofcourse, there exists non-supporters as well, which includes the Philippine media, allegedly misquoting and significantly biased against the leader.
Many people do not know and could not explain why Duterte remains as of today a popular politician in the Philippines. I admit I am one of his avid supporters. I work in the health sector and I was questioned once the irony of supporting a seemingly "ruthless" president and the values of care, warmth and compassion in my work. Objectively speaking, I support Duterte because he is a living symbol and an epitome of Filipino leadership. Why do I say so? This is the focus of this first blogpost on Duterte.
Duterte is a symbol of social equality.
The gap between the rich and poor in the Philippines is significant. Moreover, there are also noticeable differences among geographical areas and cultural groups. Those affluent Filipinos speaking the national language, and living in the areas around the capital Manila are considered the most powerful. Now, Duterte is attempting to change the landscape by promoting equal opportunities and government allocation in all parts of the country.
The island Mindanao where Duterte lived most his life is considered to be most disadvantageous. The Philippine government had long ignored the needs of the island, worsening poverty and even leading to decade-long rebellions and insurgencies in the area. Perhaps, Duterte being the first Philippine president coming from the South understood the problem better. He advocates for equal distribution of public resources and forging cooperation and renegotiation between conflicting groups in the area. No Philippine president has done the same feat in less than 3 months into power.
Duterte is a reflection of unique paternalistic Filipino society.
The family is the most important social structure in the Philippine society. Anyone who appreciates less the importance of families would easily misinterpret Duterte's actions. He acts like the Father of all Filipino families. He functions that not just rhetorically, but also in reality. He punishes and reminds when needed. He has a soft heart but a strong fist to inculcate discipline, the typical Filipino father. Ofcourse, many would say his punishment is excessive and over the bounds of internationally-sanctioned human rights. This is the reason many consider Duterte barbaric and brutal.
However, he is just a father, wanting to establish control. He adjusts his actions to the situation. If by experience he thinks the problem becomes cyclical and insolvable, then drastic measures are needed. Perhaps, his so-called "death list" is one of these measures. However, he is generous to give chances, one thing the media does not highlight. Moreover, he is a protective father of the Filipino nation for he does not want to use harm if it is unnecessary. More importantly, he is present whenever one needs him, calamities, tragedies and even when someone becomes a victim of abuse and criminality. Thus, consider him as a hands-on father. He is there, never just there because he really makes his present be felt as father.
Duterte provides good example of Cebuano witt and sarcasm.
Not everyone are aware that there are many languages in the Philippines, not just dialects. One of them is Cebuano, an interesting language Duterte speaks very often. Cebuano sarcasm is quite impolite, excessively direct and promotes reciprocity. It simply means if one does something either good or bad to anyone, one allows to do the same thing to him or her to the same degree.
Moreover, the Cebuano language is filled of non-serious direct threats, unintentional slander and humorous exaggerations. One who speaks the language would think being polite is the last priority in communication. If one wants to stop something, either seriously or not, one could threatened one with one's life. That is a joke or a semi-joke or even truth. Only those who speak the language could somehow distinguish based on the tone, body language whether the statement is true or not.
Futhermore, it is also not expected to make any generalizations for one's action today may not give a precedence to what one will do tomorrow. Thus, Cebuano language is harder than one thinks. Even non-Cebuano-speaking Filipinos find it hard to understand. Just be witty, accurate and quick. The rule of the language is not to create monotony and predictability. It's fun but confusing. Just hear Duterte, a pure Cebuano I must say.
Duterte challenges the status quo and popular belief.
The Philippines is a predominantly hierarchical, Catholic-dominated and freedom-loving nation. Duterte himself challenges all of that. He expresses his opposition to structure and bureaucracy. His position on oligarchs, the rich families controlling Philippine businesses and politics gives an evidence for this. In terms of religion, he practices some Catholic traditions but he is seen in other Christian television shows. Many even considers him agnostic or a non-believer of religions, but no one really knows except those who knows him better.
In addition, he dislikes being controlled by any other international superpower like the United States or China. Duterte adheres with democracy as a tool to promote personal autonomy in decisions and choices, as long as it does not hinder other's safety and well-being. Furthermore, he plays with geopolitics dangerously because he knows the Philippines' geographical position in the Pacific is itself an advantage to whoever sides with the Filipino nation.
Duterte is a believer of the principle of utilitarianism.
The best possible gain for the most number of people. This describes what Duterte believes in. It is also to say that it may justified to sacrifice one's liberty and rights to promote the welfare of the population. In the Philippines, where resources are scarce to provide for over 100 million Filipinos, there is a need to instill control and discipline among the citizenry. Without an effective authority, chaos results, which has occurred several times before. It is then quite incomprehensible for people living outside the Philippines, who never got to experience how it is to live in a small country with meager resources.
The problem exists when in the course of distributing resources equally, ethical and moral dilemmas exist. However, Duterte has a clear vision to meet the goal for social equality, no matter what it takes him to do that. He understands that there is a compromise to be made, and he has the will power to do it. Interestingly, Duterte seems to be least associated with corruption, a prevailing social problem in the country. He is willing, not lame and seemily least corrupt with a clear vision, not ambiguous. Those are qualities every Filipino wants in a leader.
Duterte is simply a Filipino.
Colorful. That is my personal description of a Filipino. Our words, actions and thoughts are ironic and contrasting. We are soft, but wanting to be tough. We cry very easily, but we are resilient and flexible. No typhoon, tragedies or calamities could stop us from smiling. We talk a lot, but work harder. We know we are poor in wealth, but our hearts are rich in values and care. We are peace-loving people, but we also know our limits. We are not afraid to fight back and protect what is important for us. We hesitate to trust others, especially our fellow Filipinos, but we could give our lives not just to our families and friends, but even to strangers. We are short in height, but we stand tall proud even we are nothing. That is a Filipino. The reason we voted for Duterte is because he is a perfect example of a colorful Filipino.
Lastly, Duterte is far from being perfect. I believed that he once killed at least three persons. It is not surprising to me if he shares his immoral acts when he was young. By the way, his life is an open book. In his hometown Davao, they know almost everything on him. No Filipino politician could even dare to do that. Interestingly, he knows he could die anytime due to illness or any assassination plot. He is not afraid either to go to jail after his term. The Filipino people may even turn their backs against him, but Duterte will never cease to think about the general welfare and safety of the Filipino people. His ways maybe morally incorrect, but proving them to wrong is also mentally challenging and exhaustiously difficult. The question remains, if Duterte is wrong, do you consider yourself correct then? How? and Why then?