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Duterte’s First Hundred Days: What Does It Say About Him?

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte

ince assuming office on June 30, 2016, Rodrigo Duterte has now been in Malacańang for over a hundred days. And for most Filipinos, what a hundred days they have been. Without doubt, Duterte has shaken up the local establishment and ruffled feathers all across the globe.

Even before Duterte took office, young men by the hundreds were already turning up dead in the streets all over the Philippines. Supposed victims of vigilante killings by death squads who take their marching orders, rumor has it, from Duterte or his assistants. These extrajudicial killings of suspected drug dealers and addicts who were never given their day in court but simply executed, has placed a damper on the otherwise positive reputation the Philippines has built with international agencies, development banks and foreign governments.

And Duterte’s crude remarks, defensive stance, and flip-flopping statements, have certainly not helped matters. In retaliation, Duterte now appears to be moving away from the “West” because of its “meddling” in his country’s internal affairs, and is cozying –up to the Chinese and the Russians.

The question some Filipinos are now asking—including Duterte himself is whether he will even get to complete his six-year term. More and more Filipinos now wonder whether voting him into office was a mistake. Agot Isidro, a Filipina show-business personality tweeted that Duterte was a psychopath. More recently former President Fidel Ramos, whom Duterte chose as his special emissary to China, is now wondering whether Duterte for president was a mistake. Recently, even the International Criminal Court has weighed in and warned Duterte that he can be changed by the court if he is indeed involved in the killing of thousands.

But despite all the negative publicity, Duterte still retains the support of the majority of Filipinos according to local surveys. The question is will this support continue or will it fizzle out as more and more Filipinos eventually begin to realize the extensive, and long-lasting, damage Duterte could do to the country.

As we noted in an earlier editorial: “two wrongs do not make a right.” If Duterte wants to rid the country of drug pushers and drug addicts, he must do it the right way. And the right way is usually a lot harder than the easy way. Taking short-cuts at the expense of suspected drug pushers some of whom might not even be guilty is just plain wrong. It is what a lazy, weak and incapable leader would do.

Just as you can’t create a strong edifice that will last for ages by taking shortcuts in its construction, so too will Duterte be unable to build a strong and prosperous Philippines  if he continues to condone extra-judicial killings of drug suspects by vigilante groups. If Duterte truly wants to do good for the country, he must start doing things the right way. Published 10/15/2016

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