The Duterte Phenomenon

The Duterte Phenomenon: the Philippines does politics a little differently.

This month the Philippines elected Rodrigo Duterte, a tough-talking maverick largely unknown outside his own country, as President.

The Western media has been completely wrong-footed by Duterte, and has even compared him to Donald Trump. But Duterte is a far more complex character and if he reminds me of any politician, it is Alex Salmond of Scotland’s SNP. The two men play the politics game very alike — something the rivals of both have come to rue.

Despite the ignorance of the outside world, Duterte is by no means an unknown quantity in the Philippines. Over the last four years, in my travels there, I have become used to the affection with which ordinary people — living hundreds of miles from his bailiwick — speak of him. He is ‘Rody’ or ‘Digong’ and in text, sometimes D30.

Duterte’s city, Davao on the southern island of Mindanao, is one of the three largest in the Philippines, with a population greater than several European nations. He has proven himself a skilled manager of the city’s finances over the decades of his rule. He has fought and won eleven elections — not a bad score for any political animal. While claims for the security and low levels of crime in Davao may be exaggerated, people there regard him as a true defender of the peace.

Continue reading “The Duterte Phenomenon”