Is Trump to America what Duterte is to the Philippines? They may appear to be a lot alike on the surface, but they are really as different as night and day below it.
Donald J. Trump pulled off an upset victory that the mainstream pundits failed to predict. His election victory was the direct result of a popular, grassroots-based backlash against the political establishment.
The only real similarity between Trump and President Rodrigo Duterte is the anti-establishment voter uprising that swept them both to power. Beyond that, the two men are as different in background, style and substance as two leaders can be.
By far the biggest difference between Trump and Duterte is the broad support enjoyed by the Filipino leader. Unlike Duterte, Trump enters the Oval Office without the support of the majority of his countrymen, many of whom are still bitterly divided about their president long after the election.
Of course, the US political and media establishment that cannot accept a Trump victory is very similar to the Filipino elites who still cannot wrap their heads around Duterte’s election more than half a year after he was chosen by the people. But the local guardians of the establishment and the status quo understand that they will never be able to rally the majority of the population against Duterte, should they decide to somehow remove him from office.
In background, the two presidents can’t really be compared. Trump grew up in a pampered environment as the son of a rich New York landlord; he became even richer than his father after he ventured into the same real estate business and later became a celebrity in his own right as the host of a popular reality-TV show.
Duterte’s roots are much humbler, even by Philippine standards. He was raised in a political family and served in government, first as a prosecutor, then as a provincial mayor before finally making it all the way to the presidency.
Duterte considers public service his career and life’s work. I don’t think Duterte can even conceive of life outside of politics and government.
Trump merely went into politics after making his mark in business and as a TV star, probably because it was something that would relieve him of his boredom. There seems to be no other purpose to his running for president other than to feed his huge ego.
The other main difference between the two presidents is prospective. Trump appears to be headed for constant conflict with everyone from Congress, the bureaucracy, his own intelligence agencies and almost everyone else outside of government during his four-year term.
Duterte can expect even better days ahead as long as he delivers on his promises of eradicating the illegal drug trade, crime and corruption in government. The fact that Duterte’s political opponents have been marginalized and rendered irrelevant also helps ensure a quieter, more productive term for him overall.
Of course, you could say that Duterte’s speeches are very much like Trump’s tweets and that both would benefit from shutting up for longer periods of time. But that’s about the only other thing they have in common and it’s not nearly as noteworthy or damaging—they are both old men little inclined to censor themselves, after all.
I think the Philippines got a better deal with Duterte than the US had when it elected Trump, though. And I’m giving Duterte a better chance of completing his six-year term than Trump has of surviving all four years of his.
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Until the Philippine National Police rids itself of the criminals among its own ranks, it will never be able to successfully fight crime. Progress has been made in the fight against criminality, certainly, but Director General Bato dela Rosa will still fail if his own men continue to engage in criminal activity, like those who abducted and killed a South Korean national in Pampanga last October.
It’s embarrassing for Dela Rosa to admit, like he did yesterday, that two of his own men, aided by some retired cops, were behind what is now called a case of “tokhang for ransom.” Worse, these police scalawags had the gumption to kill their victim right inside the PNP headquarters in Camp Crame, after his family had already paid a P5-million ransom.
As in the war on illegal drugs, the people are discovering that many cops are routinely engaged in criminal activity like kidnapping for ransom. In certain cases, like in the kidnapping and killing of the Korean businessman Jee Ick-joo, they don’t even bother to subcontract the commission of a crime to lawless “assets” under their protection and supervision, but perform the criminal activity themselves.
I don’t know how Dela Rosa intends to put an end to the practice of policemen using their guns and badges merely as aids to allow them to commit lucrative crimes. There is no wholesale removal of policemen suspected of criminal activity and strict screening of new recruits to the police force; only cosmetic changes seems to have been made so far, despite Bato’s best efforts.