Trump & Duterte
If you want a taste of a Donald Trump presidency, look no further than his Filipino counterpart, Rodrigo Duterte. Like Trump in the Republican primaries, Duterte won the Philippines’ presidency this year with a plurality (not majority) of votes in a crowded field by mastering braggadocio, political and personal smears (“my mouth has no due process”) and played to the fears of a nation grappling with corruption, income inequality, crime and drug addiction. The long-time mayor of Davao, the Philippines’ 3rd largest city, built a cult following thanks to his common-man appeal: a mouth not afraid to “tell it like it is” and a genuine disdain for the political establishment.
Now, that Trump like political incorrectness is starting to cost the Philippines, both domestically and internationally. On Monday, President Obama cancelled a meeting with his Pinoy counterpart after Duterte called him a “son of a whore,” an insult he previously extended to another head of state, Pope Francis. This came a month after, while talking about the US’ Ambassador to the Philippines, he said that, “I had an argument with their ambassador, that homosexual son of a bitch, he really annoys me.”
The United States has been the Pacific island nation’s strongest ally for close to a century, a bond cemented during WWII, when General Douglas MacArthur liberated them from a brutal occupation by Imperial Japan. The Obama administration has given the Philippines’ government about $200 million annually.
Since 2002, the US has shelled out half a billion dollars to the Filipino military alone, as reported last year by Reuters, a testament to the two nations’ mutual desire to cooperate on countering China’s influence in the Pacific, which would no doubt have been one of the main topics of discussion at the meeting Obama cancelled.
Beyond Duterte’s rhetorical bridge-burning, Filipino citizens are starting to suffer deadly consequences of his presidency. Since taking office on June 30th, over 2,400 people have died as a direct result of Duterte’s war on drugs. It’s important to emphasize that Duterte is targeting both drug dealers and drug users, as well as the statistic that over half of the deaths have been described by Filipino police as “deaths under investigation,” code for death squad executions reminiscent of Los Pepes during the war against Pablo Escobar.
Duterte has given the green light to the extrajudicial killings of drug dealers and users since he became Mayor of Davao in 1998, for which he earned the nickname “Punisher.” Over 1400 people were killed during his mayoral tenure, including substantial numbers of drug users and orphans. Many people not even involved in the drug trade have been killed; most recently, 5-year old Danica May Garcia was gunned down by two men on motorcycles while inside a store.
Like Trump, Rodrigo’s political platform is built upon “toughness”: tough on political insiders, tough on meddling from foreigners and, most particularly, tough on crime. In wording eerily similar to Trump, Duterte proclaimed, “I don’t care about human rights, believe me.”
Trump has likewise dismissed human rights, calling the Geneva Conventions “a problem” in the context of waging warfare, and civil liberties such as due process; back in 1989, Trump took out a full-page ad in the NY Daily News calling for the Central Park 5, a group of black teenagers accused of raping a woman in Central Park, to be executed. The boys were later found to be innocent.
The Republican standard bearer also wants to reenact the gross civil liberty abuses of Operation Wetback, which he praised during a nationally televised debate, illegally deporting US citizens born to undocumented immigrants, “bring back a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding,” “take out their [terrorist’] families,” not unlike the collateral damage going on under Duterte’s watch, and baring the planet’s almost 2 billion Muslims from entering the US, a proposal the scale of which hasn’t been seen since the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. As Trump said, “I am the law and order candidate.” Yes, indeed…
Ironically, the Philippines’ Law-and-Order President declared on Monday “A State of Lawlessness” after a bombing in his city of Davao, leading many to fear that Duterte will reinstate martial law to crack down on dissent, just like the man who he’s planning to honor with a burial in the Heroes’ Cemetery on the 18th, Ferdinand Marcos. In a country already infamous for the assassinations of journalists who dig too deeply into politics, Duterte in June warned reporters, “Just because you’re a journalist, you are not exempted from assassination, if you’re a son of a bitch.”
Those living in the United States should likewise take heed of their Law-and-Order strongman. Trump routinely insults and bars journalists and news agencies that he doesn’t like, has pledged to “open up the libel laws” to make it easier to sue dissenters, wants to start “closing parts of the Internet” and has degraded journalism in general with his pathological lies about everything from Mexico to crime statistics to The Donald himself. Expressing solidarity with Duterte’s views on the media, Trump has said, “With me, they’re [the media] not protected, because I’m not like other people…We’re gonna…have people sue you like you never get sued before.”
When it comes to Constitutional rights such as freedom of the press and religious liberty (First Amendment), due process (Fifth Amendment), freedom from cruel and unusual punishment (Eighth Amendment) and birthright citizenship (Fourteenth Amendment), Trump is as “Law-and-Order” as they come. Just ask Duterte…