Rodrigo Duterte, President of the Philippines, is undisputedly one of the most controversial political leaders in the modern world. Although attaining heavy criticism from multiple other world leaders, especially relating to his stance on “the war on drugs”, why is it that he is still preserving such strong public acceptance from his people within the country and those abroad?
I have found it very hard to begin writing this post, struggling to find my standpoint on the issue of whether or not President “DU30” Duterte is the right candidate to lead a third-world country in our contemporary world. I find it a very heavy topic to write about for a number of reasons:
- With my mother being Filipino, and my father being Irish, although I have grown up in the Philippines for months at a time every other year, I feel like maybe I may not be sufficiently immersed in the culture to form a concrete political opinion on the matter, considering the social and cultural climate. This realisation has been quite morally problematic for me, considering that as a dual citizen, I was required to vote in the Presidential campaign of 2016.
- I have the political consciousness of your average University student in the Australian political climate. And one that is very much below average in the Filipino political climate.
- Although not well-versed in Filipino politics, I can have very strong opinions on what needs to be changed in the society to cater for those not in positions of privilege. These opinions have been formed from witnessing first-hand the endurance of the lower class.
- I fear the opinions I create may not rest well with those who do not completely understand the nature of Filipino society. Inversely, I fear that some opinions may offend Filipino citizens, and be dismissive of their political conscience.
So, with the knowledge that I do have as a dual citizen of the Philippines, I will explore digital sources of Duterte’s political propaganda and attempt to decipher how it affects me, and how it would possibly affect the people of the Philippines.
I will define ‘propaganda’ as ‘information intended to persuade or convince people’ (as per the Oxford University Press Dictionary, 2nd edition), and I will be looking mainly towards his speech videos or podcasts.
Duterte was inaugurated as the 16th Presidente ng Pilipinas on 30 June 2016 at the age of 71, making him the oldest person ever elected into Presidency. He received a trust rating of 91%, the highest rating since former President Marcos’ dictatorship. The former Mayor of Davao promised policies of poverty reduction, anti-terrorism, the reclamation of territory, greater transport and infrastructure, and a strong anti-drug campaign.
My mother is a strong advocate for Duterte, to the point where if we ever see a photo of him, we jestingly exclaim, “mum, look it’s your boyfriend!”. Last year, whilst staying in the Philippines for three months, my mother would regularly read or watch news of President Duterte on her phone, so when she ran out of mobile internet data towards the end, I was beyond relieved. Until she decided to invest in a radio. So, I am not foreign to the support behind President Duterte, but endeavour to look deeper into the reasons why this is so.
The first source I looked to analyse was President Duterte’s Inaugural Speech of June 29 2016.
One of the first things I notice about this speech is the almost entire use of English throughout the whole speech. Of course, this is beneficial to me, as although I can understand Tagalog and Bisaya, I can grasp a deeper understanding of the speech’s content through English. This makes me wonder, however, how big the language barrier may be for the people of the Philippines, because even though English is very well understood by most, they frequently use the term “nosebleed” to describe a lack of comprehension when English is used above a conversational tone.
I think what Duterte does well here is address the need to overcome corruption “in the high and low echelons of government”, and how the erosion of faith and trust in government, the judicial system, and public servants is a problem that needs to be confronted. The Philippines has historically been a nation of heavy official corruption, as the Corruptions Perceptions Index 2016 identifies the country as ranking 101 of 176 countries measured from ‘very clean’ to ‘highly corrupt’ with number 176 being the most corrupt. Duterte also uses a lot of emotive language to humanise policy considerations, and appears very grounded by reflecting on all classes of people in society; rich and poor.
I admire Duterte’s career accomplishments, but as a law student I am not sure if I agree with his notion for those to mind their own work and he will mind his own. He advocates for transparency in government, but how can accountability exist if critical thought is not encouraged? Further, he emphasises his adherence to due process and the rule of law as uncompromising, and I will definitely focus on these elements of jurisprudence when analysing more political propaganda of his administration.
Another thing that I noticed was Duterte’s almost utilitarian, ‘the greatest good for the greatest number’, Aristotle’s natural law approach to government, saying that love of country and the subordination of personal interests is important to ensure the common good. From what I have heard of the anti-drug campaign in the international sphere, this statement could be the backbone underlying his battle in the war on drugs.
I look forward to analysing more of President Duterte’s political texts, gaining further knowledge of the operations of the Filipino government, understanding the level of domestic and international support for his administration, and developing my political conscience of a country that has played a huge role in my upbringing.