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Why Does Duterte Remain So Popular with Filipinos?

President Rodrigo Duterte campaigning in 2016. INQUIRER PHOTO/LYN RILLON

n the Philippines, President Rodrigo Duterte continues to enjoy the trust and support of the vast majority of Filipinos. According to the Social Weather Station (SWS), the country’s leading polling entity, their fourth quarter survey, done on December 3-6, 2016, showed that 81% of adult Filipinos gave Duterte much trust, 10% were undecided, and only 9% gave the President little trust. That gave Duterte an “excellent” net trust rating of +72.

So, what explains this phenomenon? We believe two major factors play an important role in Duterte’s popularity.

First, an Impotent Judicial System

The Philippines is a place where justice seems to take forever. In many instances, litigants pass away before verdicts are rendered in their cases. And many are just never are resolved: the Plaza Miranda Bombing; the Ninoy Aquino assassination; and the Dacer-Corbito double murder—to name just three well-known cases. If you’re seeking justice from Philippine courts, chances are you’re in for a very long wait.

Then here comes Duterte who promises to solve the drug epidemic, end corruption, and give the Philippine economy a boost—all in a matter of months, and the public goes ecstatic. To see results in such a short time (or to see results at all) is unprecedented as far as Filipinos are concerned.

So when dead bodies begin piling up in the streets, macabre as that may be, the Philippine population views it as tangible results that Duterte is getting things done.

Unlike people in developed Western countries who have properly functioning legal systems where court cases are promptly adjudicated and thus view extrajudicial killing (EJK) as barbaric and unnecessary, Filipinos instead see it as tangible proof that justice is being served—something Philippine courts and politicians are usually unable to provide.

Second, A Culture of Getting Things Done the Easy Way

Another factor that may explain Duterte’s continuing popularity is our “Juan Tamad” attitude. As a people, we seem to always want to get things done the quick and easy way. Nothing wrong with that except when it impinges on someone else’s rights. In the case of EJKs, law enforcement agents become judge, jury, and executioner, and violate the human rights of their victims who are innocent until proven guilty by a court of law.

PNP Chief Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa tells the press, his job
will be easier without the writ of habeas corpus.

For example, when Duterte was flirting with suspending the writ habeas corpus in November of last year, PNP Chief Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa stated in a media briefing that such suspension would “make our job easier.” Of course it would! The writ of habeas corpus was created centuries ago precisely to make it difficult for a sovereign to lock up an accused indefinitely. Because of such writ, a king could no longer send an accused to the dungeon and keep him or her there for as long as he pleased.

Thus, today’s civilized world is intentionally complicated because it tries to prevent abuse by the powerful while insuring the rights and privileges of everyone else. It’s called equal rights, and due process, and these impose heavy restrictions on those in authority to insure that that the power they wield is not abused. This is all part of our evolution as a species and what differentiates us from savages.

In closing, we believe the two factors we list above go a long way in explaining Duterte’s consistently high poll numbers. Filipinos however need to realize that when we turn to expedient “extrajudicial” methods to solve things, we trample on other Filipino’s rights and eventually the law of the jungle takes hold… and that would be a bad thing for everyone. Published 1/8/2017

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