History

Who Is The 'Donald Trump Of The Philippines'?

Outspoken and outlandish Philippine mayor Rodrigo Duterte just won the presidential election. So who is he and why is he so controversial?

Rodrigo Duterte, the incoming president of the Philippines, is infamous for his controversial rhetoric and has frequently been compared to U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump.

So who is Rodrigo Duterte?

As Jules Suzdaltsev explains in today's Seeker Daily dispatch, Duterte -- like Trump -- is a deeply polarizing public figure. On May 9, Duterte won the presidential election with an estimated 39% of the vote. His two main opponents came in at roughly 23 percent and 21 percent, respectively.

The election numbers reflect the country's ambivalence toward their new leader. Like Trump, Duterte is a populist political figure known for outrageous public statements.

Most worrying, according to his detractors, is Duterte's alarming zero-tolerance policies against criminals. As mayor of Davao City, where he served for 22 years, Duterte was known to patrol the streets himself on a Harley Davidson, brandishing a .38 caliber handgun.

The mayor openly tolerated and even encouraged extrajudicial death squads who targeted alleged criminals. He's asserted publicly that those caught committing crimes are legitimate targets for assassination. He even pledged to kill thousands of criminals himself, if elected. Duterte's hard-line stance on crime has earned him the nickname The Punisher.

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Crime rates in Davao City plummeted under his watch, but human rights advocates have roundly criticized his methods. His supporters, however, contend that the Philippines justice system is incapable of dealing with the nation's crime epidemic.

Duterte's controversial remarks aren't just limited to criminals. During a visit by Pope Francis, Duterte called the Pope a "son of a whore." During a campaign event, Duterte joked – if that's the term – about raping a murdered Australian female missionary. He later apologized for both remarks.

His misogynistic statements have women's rights advocates worried, in particular. The 71-year- old lawyer is a self-described womanizer and has said he couldn't live without Viagra.

On the other hand, Duterte has supported initiatives upholding women's civil rights and, also like Trump, is relatively progressive on social issues. For instance, he openly supports LGBT rights.

The success of Duterte and Trump suggests that -- even paired with dubious policy platforms -- aggressive rhetoric pays political dividends in election season.

Learn More:

New York Times: Rodrigo Duterte's Many Sides: Brash and Crude or Tough and Shrewd

Human Rights Watch: Death Squad Killings in Mindanao

CNN: As Philippines' likely president, Duterte vows to be 'dictator' against evil

The Washington Post: Leading Philippine presidential contender: Gang rape victim 'so beautiful' he wishes he had 'been first'