law and order in the philippines
September 30, 2016 9:31 AM   Subscribe

On June 30, Rodrigo Duterte became president of the Philippines. Duterte had served as mayor of Davao city for over 20 years, during which death squads killed an estimated 1400 people, including 132 children. Today marks exactly three months since Duterte took the reins over the twelfth-largest country in the world. In that time, an estimated 3100 Filipinos have been summarily executed. In remarks earlier today, Duterte compared himself to Adolf Hitler and noted, "there's three million drug addicts [in the Philippines]. I'd be happy to slaughter them."

Todd Gutnick, communications director for the Anti-Defamation League, responds, "The comparison of drug users and dealers to Holocaust victims is inappropriate and deeply offensive."

Sheila Coronel writes for the Atlantic, "Extreme as Duterte’s provocations may be, they resonate with deep-set anxieties in the Philippines. The rule of law is weak and the police and the courts are widely considered by citizens to be unreliable and corrupt. Last year, a national poll found that even while the rate of crime victimization was falling, the sense of insecurity continued... Little wonder that Duterte was cheered on when he vowed to pull out all the stops in the war against drugs."

Previously.
posted by Vic Morrow's Personal Vietnam (71 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
 
"The comparison of drug users and dealers to Holocaust victims is inappropriate and deeply offensive."

I don't see why. They're both groups of people, morally innocent but legally guilty (of using drugs, being Jewish, etc), who are being executed en masse by their own government. Comparing them does not trivialize the Holocaust, it emphasizes the ongoing horror.

It's not a case of Godwin's law when the murderous strongman compares himself to Hitler.
posted by Rangi at 9:34 AM on September 30, 2016 [86 favorites]


The rule of law is "weak", so the answer is to...gut the rule of law?
posted by NoxAeternum at 9:34 AM on September 30, 2016 [4 favorites]


legally guilty (of using drugs, being Jewish, etc)

One of these is not like the other ...

I am curious how this will play out for the Philippines. Will Duterte be re-elected ? Will he become a strongman/despot ? The touristy home town where he was mayor loves/fears him, so it's hard to see this ending well.

(And there's this nagging comparison I want to make with the US election and Trump, about populism, "giving the people what they want", injecting fear and proposing impractical to crazy-pants solutions.. )
posted by k5.user at 9:45 AM on September 30, 2016 [5 favorites]


That number may be low: in the seven weeks since he took office, nearly 1,800 alleged criminals have died — at the hands of police or under mysterious circumstances (NPR, August 22, 2016) That article links to many other articles, citing Duterte's rhetoric and bold statements, including
He told corrupt cops he would kill them. "Don't take this as a joke. I'm not making you laugh," Duterte said, as translated by CNN Philippines. "Son of a bitch, I will kill you."
...
"Forget the laws on human rights. If I make it to the presidential palace, I will do just what I did as mayor. You drug pushers, hold-up men and do-nothings ... I'll kill you," he said, as The Guardian reported.
Less than a month later, that number is higher, as reported in another NRP piece: A Stark Choice For Filipino Drug Addicts: Surrender Or Risk Being Killed (NPR, September 16, 2016)
Lilibeth Diego lives in Malate, in one of Manila's seemingly endless slums. People are packed so tightly here, they often wash and bathe outside. Diego is 53 and has been a meth fiend, she says, since high school.

"Every day since 1981," she says. And she's got the emaciated-looking face and lack of teeth to prove it. She swears she never dealt drugs. A few weeks ago, though, after recently elected President Rodrigo Duterte launched his war on drugs, she surrendered, along with her husband.

She says it was an easy choice.

"I'm scared to die," she says.

She's so scared to die that she went to her precinct, signed some papers, got a briefing and was sent home. She says she's been clean ever since.

In the Philippines, the official death toll in President Rodrigo Duterte's war on drugs has topped 3,000 since he took office in late June. At least half were killed in encounters with police, according to the country's police chief. The government says more than 700,000 people, like Diego, have surrendered. They're fearful of what the president's war on drugs might bring for them.
Emphasis mine - that's the official death toll.

The scariest thing, for me, from that article:
For all his tough talk, though, Sabulao's cops haven't killed anyone since the war on drugs began 3 1/2 months ago. And that has gotten him in trouble with his bosses.

"My colonel was under pressure from his bosses," he says, "and asked me why we haven't killed anybody. And he told me to start killing people who were known drug personalities. But I told him I didn't want to make any mistakes. I need to make sure that these people are really criminals."
A terrible sort of quota to be pushing on police.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:49 AM on September 30, 2016 [27 favorites]


Gutnick's statement is playing into Duterte's vision. It's precisely, diametrically the wrong attitude. He's not horrified that three million people are being threatened with their lives; he's horrified that those icky, nasty, immoral drug users are being compared to blameless Holocaust victims. It's exactly what Duterte wants.
posted by Vic Morrow's Personal Vietnam at 9:50 AM on September 30, 2016 [71 favorites]


Talk about your signs of the end times -- when guys like this start popping up, rot has gone deep into the roots.
posted by jamjam at 9:50 AM on September 30, 2016 [5 favorites]


Somehow I'll bet that the users of any legal drugs, even recreational ones, that existing power structures make money off of will be kept around.

A terrible sort of quota to be pushing on police.

Not just on police: in August Duterte's National Police Chief, Ronald dela Rosa, openly told civilians to kill drug dealers and burn down their houses, echoing the President:
When he took office on 30 June, Duterte told a crowd in Manila: “If you know of any addicts, go ahead and kill them yourself as getting their parents to do it would be too painful.”

...

Human Rights Watch released a statement condemning the death of a five-year-old girl who was shot this week when unknown gunmen reportedly entered her home and tried to kill her grandfather, an alleged drug user, who was wounded.

Phelim Kine, the US-based group’s Asia deputy director, said in a statement: “Duterte’s aggressive rhetoric advocating violent, extrajudicial solutions to crime in the Philippines has found willing takers.”
posted by XMLicious at 9:51 AM on September 30, 2016 [2 favorites]


Talk about your signs of the end times -- when guys like this start popping up, rot has gone deep into the roots.

Then I guess the roots were always rotten. Seems pretty likely.

We have always lived in the end times, as far as I can see.
posted by howfar at 10:06 AM on September 30, 2016 [11 favorites]


legally guilty (of using drugs, being Jewish, etc)

One of these is not like the other ...


So true, only one of these is currenly a class of people popularly portrayed as parasites and spreaders of disease, treated as a threat to civil order and the state, tend to be concentrated in the poorer districts of the big cities, and subject to summary execution unless they register as an official subhuman with the state.

Now the increasingly dictatorial leader—who has already explicitly supported lethal mob violence—is threatening to simply exterminate all of them. And has directly compared his policy to Hitler's treatment of Jews. And what the ADL objects to is the comparison? Between this and the Armenian genocide denial, it seems to me they too often act like their mission is to preserve the memory of the Shoah by minimizing any other organized mass murder of groups of people by the state that had a duty to protect them.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 10:09 AM on September 30, 2016 [80 favorites]


Gutnick's statement is playing into Duterte's vision. It's precisely, diametrically the wrong attitude. He's not horrified that three million people are being threatened with their lives; he's horrified that those icky, nasty, immoral drug users are being compared to blameless Holocaust victims. It's exactly what Duterte wants.

It's also disgusting because those "blameless victims" included not only those picked by race, but also those whom the Reich considered "deviant".

I had thought the change in leadership would have resolved the issues at the ADL, but apparently not.
posted by NoxAeternum at 10:12 AM on September 30, 2016 [7 favorites]


Once you've become the sole arbiter of who lives and who dies, pretty easy to take care of any troublesome political opponents with a death squad and some planted evidence (if you even need that much).

This is going to get much worse. I keep thinking about the Rwandan genocide, which also included urging people to kill their neighbors.
posted by emjaybee at 10:24 AM on September 30, 2016 [12 favorites]


The "Jews vs Addicts" comparison hinges on persecution for who you are rather than what you do. If you don't so drugs anymore, you should (hopefully) be passed over by the "law and order" mob. Jews, on the other hand, were marked for destruction just by their birth; renouncing Judiasm wasn't going to save anyone from the camps.

It's a disingenuous comparison, to be sure, but not exactly apples-to-apples.
posted by dr_dank at 10:24 AM on September 30, 2016 [3 favorites]


I don't think it matters much that Jews were killed for their race/religion, while drug users are being killed for alleged crimes; in both cases, a strongman is consolidating power and building a culture of fear around the unjustified mass murder of a vilified population that the majority of people are reluctant to defend. Focusing on what Jews or drug users did to 'deserve' their treatment is missing the point.
posted by theodolite at 10:29 AM on September 30, 2016 [55 favorites]


The US gave him $30m or so specifically for this campaign. Kerry went over there in July with it.
posted by Coda Tronca at 10:30 AM on September 30, 2016 [5 favorites]


The "Jews vs Addicts" comparison hinges on persecution for who you are rather than what you do. If you don't so drugs anymore, you should (hopefully) be passed over by the "law and order" mob. Jews, on the other hand, were marked for destruction just by their birth; renouncing Judiasm wasn't going to save anyone from the camps.

It's a disingenuous comparison, to be sure, but not exactly apples-to-apples.


The Holocaust didn't just claim the lives of Jews, though. And beyond the groups targeted by race, there were groups targeted by their actions - for example, communists were also among those sent to their deaths. And there were the murders done through the T4 Program as well.

Again, it's a horrible, disgusting argument from the ADL, who really should know better.
posted by NoxAeternum at 10:31 AM on September 30, 2016 [12 favorites]


Are we really arguing over ethics in death squad targeting, Metafilter?
posted by emjaybee at 10:38 AM on September 30, 2016 [62 favorites]


My best friend's brother lives in the Phillipines. He has a wife and a newborn son there. This is very scary to me, and sad, and it makes me feel helpless. I don't have anything else to say.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 10:52 AM on September 30, 2016 [7 favorites]


Can a Filipina/o MeFite give us a perspective on how Duterte is perceived in the country? My understanding was that he's very popular, riding a wave of tough-on-crime sentiment.
posted by splitpeasoup at 10:53 AM on September 30, 2016 [4 favorites]


It's a disingenuous comparison, to be sure, but not exactly apples-to-apples.

I don't really care when there are calls for millions of whatever fucking type of fruit to be murdered extrajudicially.
posted by MikeKD at 11:01 AM on September 30, 2016 [25 favorites]


asked me why we haven't killed anybody. And he told me to start killing people who were known drug personalities

Isn't this how the purge of the Kulaks in the Soviet Union went? From "that guy needs to be killed" to "you need to meet your quota"?
posted by fatbird at 11:02 AM on September 30, 2016 [7 favorites]


If I had to be poor in the Philippines, I'd be doing some drugs. It's a fairly miserable place to be poor and for the poor there is no escape.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 11:16 AM on September 30, 2016


I saw a news item about addicts who are now trying to break into the prisons for their own (relative) safety (prisons which of course are already overcrowded and filthy beyond belief).

The whole thing is insane and I can only imagine that the US is hedging its bets over Duterte. Effective strongman, or cause of further instability in the Philippines, are both usable options.

"As Kerry’s visit to Manila demonstrates, Washington has no qualms about funding Duterte’s death squads, provided he toes its line. The recent flurry of negative international press about police and vigilante killings in the Philippines, headed up by the New York Times, is an implicit threat from Washington: Duterte will serve the US imperialist war drive against China, or the US will exploit “human rights” as a weapon against him."
posted by Coda Tronca at 11:33 AM on September 30, 2016 [5 favorites]


I know a couple of activists prominent in Left grassroots politics in the Philippines... the Left in the Philippines, which is heavily influenced by Maoism, seems to love this guy. I'd love to ask them why they like Duterte, but it's not a conversation I really want to initiate. Filipinos are way, way more intense about politics than I could ever be.
posted by My Dad at 11:56 AM on September 30, 2016 [1 favorite]


The Holocaust didn't just claim the lives of Jews, though.

Gotta love it when people use the Holocaust to win little internet arguments.
posted by My Dad at 11:58 AM on September 30, 2016


So...... cops are killing low income folks on the streets on suspicion of something to do with drugs? *scratches head musingly*
posted by infini at 11:59 AM on September 30, 2016 [5 favorites]


"Gotta love it when people use the Holocaust to win little internet arguments."

I'm confused as to what this means since this entire FPP is about Duterte comparing himself favorably to Hitler.
posted by I-baLL at 12:03 PM on September 30, 2016 [38 favorites]


Gotta love it when people use the Holocaust to win little internet arguments.
Seriously?

Count me with the folks who found the response from the ADL bizarre and horrifyingly off-target. Wouldn't it be much better for them to speak in strong terms against the extra-judicial mass killing of citizens by their own government rather than say something that comes across as "hey, those are our words and you can't use any of them without our permission."
posted by Nerd of the North at 12:04 PM on September 30, 2016 [26 favorites]


"So...... cops are killing low income folks on the streets on suspicion of something to do with drugs? "

As far as I understand it, Duterte's government releases lists of names of people suspected to be involved with drugs (selling, using) and you are allowed to kill anybody on that list. By "you" I mean anybody can. If you're on the death list and don't think you belong there then you have to go to the police and turn yourself in for questioning. There are politicians on that list, judges, poor people, rich people, etc.
posted by I-baLL at 12:05 PM on September 30, 2016 [3 favorites]


"no fly" pinoy style, huh?
posted by infini at 12:06 PM on September 30, 2016


This begets life as it was under the Stasi. Don't like your neighbor staying up late? Report them for possibly using or dealing drugs and they're on the list. Even if every single person killed was a drug dealer (which they most definitely are not) erodes the entire basis for the rule of law. Who knows how your government will handle any subject anymore because the basic contract in the constitution of due process is gone.
posted by msbutah at 12:17 PM on September 30, 2016 [10 favorites]


I'm friends of friends with a Filipino nurse in my doctor's office...some of her posts show up on my Facebook at least. Liberal politics here in the US but despite that she absolutely loves this Duterte guy. Reminded me of the post here about how many Indian-Americans are liberal yet support Modi. Is it the same sort of dynamic?
posted by aerotive at 12:21 PM on September 30, 2016 [1 favorite]


I am pretty sure the US is planning Duterte's exit as we speak. The Philippines is a 2-tier ally to the US and they have a lot of common history, but a mad man running death squads is too much, even for Obama and Kerry. That and Duterte calling Obama a son of a whore...
posted by Foci for Analysis at 12:32 PM on September 30, 2016


Are we really arguing over ethics in death squad targeting, Metafilter?

Some people believe that in other contexts, groups based on shared identity are fundamentally different from groups based on shared behavior—so why not this one?

I would hope this context becomes a reductio ad absurdam of the others, but it probably won't.
posted by Rangi at 12:56 PM on September 30, 2016 [2 favorites]


I'm not Filipina but got to know a little bit about some of the radical and progressive Fil Am organizations when I was living in the SF Bay Area doing Asian American activisty stuff. Going to the websites of the organizations I had known, I was surprised to see how hopeful many seemed about Duterte's election in August. My uninformed guess is that some radical Filipino Americans were heartened by Duterte's oppositional stance toward the U.S., given how problematic U.S. involvement in the Philippines (from the Spanish American War til now) has been -- U.S. military bases, U.S. training of paramilitary groups, and U.S. support for Marcos. At the same time, BAYAN has criticized Duterte's extrajudicial killings:
BAYAN-USA strongly condemns the over 3,000 drug related extrajudicial killings that have taken place within the first two months of President Rodrigo Duterte’s term. The President must put a stop to these killings. In the course of holding accountable those accused of drug-related crimes, he must uphold due process and abide by the rule of law.
posted by spamandkimchi at 1:16 PM on September 30, 2016 [3 favorites]


Slight tangent: The IRA were, in certain circles, lauded because in addition to their bread and butter of terrorism/freedom fighting , during the Troubles they also ran a very effective public awareness campaign which gently reminded young people that a common side effect of taking or selling heroin was having your kneecaps shot out, meaning the more deprived parts of the city never had the same drug problems as many of the post industrial cities in Scotland and north of England, or even Dublin.
posted by Damienmce at 2:06 PM on September 30, 2016 [6 favorites]


You want to be Hitler? Do us all a favour and skip to the last chapter.

It's well worth pointing out that Duterte's death squads don't just target criminals, but also Muslims in mosques.

What does the ADL have to say about that, I wonder?
posted by Sys Rq at 2:17 PM on September 30, 2016 [8 favorites]


My parents emmigrated from the Phillippines to the US. We still have lots of family there, with whom we visited last spring and spent some time discussing the then upcoming election.

I don't think anyone who's experience is principally informed by living in the first world can really begin to understand what the Phillippines is like. In fact, I feel more confused after visits there. Poverty is extreme. Income disparity is extreme. Corruption is extreme. This is a country whose population previously voted in an action movie star, who was unable to finish his single six year term due to his being impeached on corruption charges, and who was ultimately removed from power despite the impeachment process falling apart. Guns are everywhere - in fact, there's a gun ban prior to elections because of the level of gun violence during that time. The rest of the time? Go nuts.

Most of my family (who tend to be more affluent and educated) are taking great pains to make it clear they didn't vote for this guy and don't support him. That said, there are certain highly educated, affluent relatives of mine who are fans of his. Their argument is essentialy - traditional channels are broken - I'm not safe, and the people he wants to kill are bad people and even if that is a bad act the end result is I'm safer. Phrased differently: the correct process and good acts aren't getting us anywhere - what do we have to lose trying it this way?

My sense as an outside observer is this story is in the same general ballpark as other 3rd world strongmen - but who knows, really. Even looking over my relatives' facebook updates it's hard to get a consistent view.

I will say, however, that the coverage of Duterte does tend towards a pretty othering and patronizing tone. The Philippines is a really complicated place, and reducing it and its people to Duterte stories is like the rest of the world understanding the US purely through Donald Trump.
posted by NoRelationToLea at 2:35 PM on September 30, 2016 [55 favorites]


I am pretty sure the US is planning Duterte's exit as we speak. The Philippines is a 2-tier ally to the US and they have a lot of common history, but a mad man running death squads is too much...

Fun fact: the US colonization of the Philippines is where the US military first institutionalized the death squad as a "counter-insurgency" tactic.
Throughout the war American soldiers would write home about the atrocities committed by American forces. In these letters some would criticize General Otis and the U.S. military. When these letters reached anti-imperialist newspaper editors the letters would become national news which would force the War Department to investigate. Two such letters included:

A soldier from New York: "The town of Titatia was surrendered to us a few days ago, and two companies occupy the same. Last night one of our boys was found shot and his stomach cut open. Immediately orders were received from General Wheaton to burn the town and kill every native in sight; which was done to a finish. About 1,000 men, women and children were reported killed. I am probably growing hard-hearted, for I am in my glory when I can sight my gun on some dark skin and pull the trigger."[119]

Corporal Sam Gillis: "We make everyone get into his house by seven p.m., and we only tell a man once. If he refuses we shoot him. We killed over 300 natives the first night. They tried to set the town on fire. If they fire a shot from the house we burn the house down and every house near it, and shoot the natives, so they are pretty quiet in town now."[119]

posted by ennui.bz at 2:40 PM on September 30, 2016 [20 favorites]


Gotta love it when people use the Holocaust to win little internet arguments.

Is this meant to be pithy and cute? I wish I knew what this really meant. I hope it isn't that. Fascism seems like a serious global threat, and not one to minimize in this way.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 2:58 PM on September 30, 2016 [4 favorites]


NoRelationToLea, while I am not filipino, I did end up as house guest in an off the beaten track barangay in the Visayas observing rural household financial behaviour. The day I arrived, 10 people in the joint family compound (mother, her sons, her grandchildren because all the younger women were working abroad for 2 years at a time) were going to eat rice and one tiny can of sardines mixed up with water to stretch teh flavour. (Yes, we ate meat twice a day while I was there, I made sure of that)

The social fabric of this region was tearing apart due to high percentage of OFWs (Filipinos working abroad contribute ~ 14% to the national GDP, not including remittances by immigrants), most of them married with families. Where it used to be seamen's wives left behind - perhaps a more stable unit - it's now primarily the wives who go abroad as domestics, leaving men behind to rely on a steady flow of hard cash. In the compound where I was, one brother was running around partying with girlfriends while granny looked after the kid, though the other was responsibly building up his family home. The daughter's husband would gamble away her earnings until she kicked him out and tightened up the amount and the way she'd remit for her kid's educations.

There are no jobs - this daughter was a Master's degree holder, a domestic in Singapore. There are just cans, cans, cans, of branded food in the smallest rural shop. The entire economy is nothing more than a captive consumer society with little or no production. Tire companies driven out of business by the big guys walking in easily. And don't even look at the pittance paid to casual labour at the pineapple farms. There are no jobs. I met a Marine Engineer rearing fighter cocks for cockfighting tournaments, while growing rice - he's a farmer now.

I had no internet during these days I was living there, and I wrote things at night. This is a post Independence colony that ended up a captive consumer market. Its those domestics around the world scrubbing floors to fuel domestic consumption.
posted by infini at 3:03 PM on September 30, 2016 [18 favorites]


I work with a Filipina-American woman who's assimilated enough into US society to be appropriately horrified at Duterte's crazy words and actions.

Some clever Americans have leveraged his reputation into cheeky T-shirts, possibly in bad taste.
posted by theorique at 3:05 PM on September 30, 2016


“Fear in the Philippines,” NHK World Newsline, 28 September 2016
posted by ob1quixote at 3:36 PM on September 30, 2016


I am pretty sure the US is planning Duterte's exit as we speak. The Philippines is a 2-tier ally to the US and they have a lot of common history, but a mad man running death squads is too much...

We put up with the Marcos dictatorship for decades. I frankly think that Duterte might inspire an internal uprising of some kind, possibly by the populace or by elites unenthusiastic about his bull-in-the-china-shop approach to ruling, but the US is unlikely, going by the historical record, to sponsor a coup based on a bad human rights record alone.
posted by AdamCSnider at 4:30 PM on September 30, 2016 [6 favorites]


I blame Howard Taft.
posted by clavdivs at 5:50 PM on September 30, 2016 [6 favorites]


I wonder how many American policeman share the belief that regular criminals deserve to be executed and due process is wasteful regulation. 1%? 4%? 15%?

If there was a mind reading machine you would be horrified to actually use it.
posted by bukvich at 9:33 PM on September 30, 2016 [3 favorites]


27 percent.
posted by tavella at 10:08 PM on September 30, 2016 [1 favorite]


but a mad man running death squads is too much, even for Obama and Kerry.

You poor innocent. Dictators with death squads is more the norm than the exception in the US sphere of influence.
posted by wotsac at 11:22 PM on September 30, 2016 [7 favorites]


While in the Philippines about 10 years ago, I heard a story about Duterte, back when he was still the mayor of Davao. Apparently his plan to "get tough on crime" in the city was to round up the more serious criminals, put them in a helicopter, fly them out over the ocean and push them out at altitude.

Pleasant fellow. I see not much has changed.
posted by iffthen at 3:10 AM on October 1, 2016


Also want to second NoRelationToLea's comment that the Philippines is really complicated. Visiting for the first time as a Westerner is surreal; it's a place completely outside your realm of experience, and none of the usual rules apply. It's also hard to come away without a sense of sadness: everyone has the sense that the country shouldn't be such a mess, but nobody knows the path to prosperity.

Duterte is not good. I'd like to remain hopeful that the right strongman could work for a time to get the economy in shape, a la South Korea - but that belies the Philippines' own history. I think part of the attraction Filipinos have to Duterte is because of his intolerance for corruption - and I can sympathise, it's hard to not draw connections between the economic stagnation and the constant, disgusting self-enrichment of the people at the top.

I'm sorta talking in circles. I'm sad for the Philippines and its people. Duterte is not going to help.
posted by iffthen at 3:37 AM on October 1, 2016 [1 favorite]


While in the Philippines about 10 years ago, I heard a story about Duterte, back when he was still the mayor of Davao. Apparently his plan to "get tough on crime" in the city was to round up the more serious criminals, put them in a helicopter, fly them out over the ocean and push them out at altitude.
A favoured post-interrogation tactic of the Argentinian dictatorship, of course. I imagine there was a graduate-level course in how to do it offered at The School of the Americas.
posted by Sonny Jim at 4:43 AM on October 1, 2016 [3 favorites]


seems like a waste of fuel.
posted by clavdivs at 5:29 AM on October 1, 2016 [1 favorite]


I'm sure the additional fuel costs and flight hours were more than offset by the cost-savings made in the prison budget by reducing cell occupancy, clavdivs. And anyway, the fuel costs and maintenance and airframe time probably came out of someone else's budget, anyway.
posted by Sonny Jim at 6:01 AM on October 1, 2016 [1 favorite]


I'm not Filipina but got to know a little bit about some of the radical and progressive Fil Am organizations when I was living in the SF Bay Area doing Asian American activisty stuff. Going to the websites of the organizations I had known, I was surprised to see how hopeful many seemed about Duterte's election in August.

It's confusing to me as well. I think the CPP sees Duterte as someone that it can work with, especially on peace talks, despite his many awful tendencies. The CPP has a long working relationship with him:
Duterte has long-standing ties to the CPP, having been part of its youth organization in the 1960s and, according to CPP head Joma Sison, a “long-time member of [CPP front organization] BAYAN.” The CPP and its front organizations supported Duterte throughout his career as mayor of the southern Philippine city of Davao, where he was the notorious head of the city’s death squads, which he publicly claimed were responsible for over 1,000 murders during his terms as mayor.
They also give Duterte kudos for taking an "anti-imperialist" position against US domination. They even are enthusiastic about participating in his war on drugs. Duterte also at one point offered cabinet posts to the CPP, which they took. Given all of this, I'm unsure why the CPP's position towards Duterte isn't one of outright endorsement, since they seem to agree with many of his important policies.

I think this statement sums up Duterte pretty well:
Rodrigo Duterte is a parochial figure of limited capacity, a small city mayor vaulted onto the national stage. He remains a provincial strongman whose expertise is limited to death-squads and populist speech-mongering. His political fixation is implementing his fascistic agenda, carried out under the auspices of a war on drugs, to erect a police state over the murdered bodies of thousands of impoverished Filipinos.
I'd be interested to hear if anyone else has additional insight into the CPP-Duterte relationship, or the Philippine diaspora-Duterte relationship. (Speaking of the Bay Area, there seem to be at least some who, as of a couple weeks ago, were offering support to Duterte.)
posted by Noisy Pink Bubbles at 6:23 AM on October 1, 2016 [2 favorites]


A favoured post-interrogation tactic of the Argentinian dictatorship, of course. I imagine there was a graduate-level course in how to do it offered at The School of the Americas.

It was also famously deployed by Pinochet's government in Chile in their "death flights".
posted by theorique at 7:21 AM on October 1, 2016


"I'm unsure why the CPP's position towards Duterte isn't one of outright endorsement"

Good question.

"On September 5, 2007, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo signed Amnesty Proclamation 1377 for members of the Communist Party of the Philippines and its armed wing, the New People's Army...The amnesty will cover the crime of rebellion and all other crimes "in pursuit of political beliefs," but not including crimes against chastity, rape, torture, kidnapping for ransom, use and trafficking of illegal drugs and other crimes for personal ends and violations of international law or convention and protocols "even if alleged to have been committed in pursuit of political beliefs."

This might be a good starting point.
posted by clavdivs at 7:32 AM on October 1, 2016


The Philippines have had law, but not order, for most of their independence, and the people and economy have paid the price. Saying "rule of law, rule of law" in 2016 is just feel-goodism. It's an indictment of the political establishment of the Philippines that they were offering so little in terms of restoration of order that a Duterte's solutions of death squads to do so seems reasonable, especially given that equally poor countries (e.g. Indonesia, Vietnam, and Malaysia) manage to be more orderly without death squads.
posted by MattD at 8:32 AM on October 1, 2016


My parents emmigrated from the Phillippines to the US. We still have lots of family there, with whom we visited last spring and spent some time discussing the then upcoming election.

I don't think anyone who's experience is principally informed by living in the first world can really begin to understand what the Phillippines is like. In fact, I feel more confused after visits there. Poverty is extreme. Income disparity is extreme. Corruption is extreme. This is a country whose population previously voted in an action movie star, who was unable to finish his single six year term due to his being impeached on corruption charges, and who was ultimately removed from power despite the impeachment process falling apart. Guns are everywhere - in fact, there's a gun ban prior to elections because of the level of gun violence during that time. The rest of the time? Go nuts.
Like NoRelationToLea, I am also a Filipino expat who moved to the West when I was young, and while I've visited Manila since leaving, I am highly aware of how I've evolved away from my country of birth, and I felt reluctant to chime into this thread and add on to the Western voices here that speak of my homeland from a distance.

When I came of age in the 80s, crime was rampant. We were taught certain habits like: only carry enough cash in your wallet to complete your daily errands. Prepare to be mugged and if mugged, just give them that cash. Budget for petty theft. It's better than being knifed or killed. When I would return to visit, I'd stay with my grandparents and they would give me a cheap flip-phone for staying in touch and would just say, "if someone wants this, just give it to them. Don't fight. We can replace it, but we can't replace you." They had a drawer that was full of disposable phones.

This is the level of ambient crime and fear that the nation has lived with for decades. My relatives look upon Singapore or China with a sort of envy and talk openly about how they'd be happy to trade in their freedoms in exchange for some of that prosperity. What good is freedom of expression if you're always a little nervous to walk down a street? It's Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs writ large across an entire nation's politics.

So, on one level, I get the support that has buoyed Duterte and continues to support him despite all of his shenanigans of silencing his political opposition, and on the other hand I am also horrified and anxious for how his vigilantes will victimize people further. It's not just poor people, but LGBTQ, democracy activists, and just political neutrals. A large reason why my family left the Philippines was the fact that my dad didn't want to have to pay off either Marcos' or Aquino's cronies and just wanted to rely on the rule of law to run his business. That failed him in the 80s and continues to fail people now.

At the same time, for everyone who looks at him and disapproves, I feel my own despair at trying to think of who else could replace him and who could actually be successful. The history of Asia is replete with economic success stories that stem from a period of brutal autocracy: South Korea, China, Singapore. Democracy is messy and it requires compromise to maintain consensus, and it's easy to lose decisiveness or progress if the political conversation is so riven with factions that nothing ever gets done. So, give up some freedom and due process in favor of someone getting stuff done and bringing in real prosperity -- it's a really fucking seductive promise for Filipinos when they're surrounded by cities and nations that managed it.

The Philippines has been crippled by a political establishment that's riven with dynasties and factions that are more interested in enriching themselves rather than improving the nation (or the ones who genuinely wish to improve the nation are marginalized so as to be a pawn of the oligarchy). Everyone says that they're going to fight corruption, but it's usually a cover for persecuting the corruption of their opponents while turning a blind eye to their own. I don't see Duterte as being different.

A lot of my American friends, over the last few months, have asked me for explainers or overviews of Duterte as they're trying to form their own opinions. And, again, there's a part of me that just hesitates. Like, why do you care now? Do you just feel compelled to form an opinion when it's a morbidly bloody spectacle? How long will you pay attention? What good will come of that attention and possible interference?

but, fwiw, here's what I suspect is going on: to get a sense for what's fueling Duterte's popularity, you should look at the record of his predecessor -- "NoyNoy" Benigno Aquino III. The son of assassinated populist Benigno Aquino, Jr. and former President Cory Aquino, NoyNoy is another dynastic descendant, but one who I genuinely believed had the interests of the country at heart. To his credit, NoyNoy helped the Philippine economy take off -- bringing in a lot of investment and a lot of wealth. Yet, like many other developing nations, that wealth has come in unevenly, and inequality, which has been historically terrible, has continued to get even worse. The middle class is arguably getting bigger as an absolute number but the gap between the middle/upper and the bottom has gotten more severe.

(disclaimer: this point is conjecture and a summary of some points of view that I have from family. Not my actual opinion)
now there's a critical mass of prosperity that's starting to form, and a vast class of impoverished people who live at the borders of that mass. You could share that wealth now and dissipate its power, and potentially bet that people will take that and let a thousand new livelihoods bloom. Or you could see it fritter away as the uneducated and ignorant just waste it all on whatever poor people spend their money on. Then you're back to being a basketcase. Then you're repeating the failures of land reform from the Cory era when productive wealthy plantations were turned over to poor people who filled it with squalor.

Better, instead, to just bring in someone who will promise security, and let you protect that nest egg so it can develop into something that can truly support the country, whenever that day comes. Less "fuck you, I got mine," perhaps and more "none of you know how to behave. We earned this. We should be entrusted to manage this. When the rest of you learn how to behave, we'll share it with you too."
Which, now that I've written that out, maybe there is a point in talking about this with Americans, because there are parts of that which aren't too dissimilar to what you're probably going to be going through in a few years if things keep going as they do.
posted by bl1nk at 9:53 AM on October 1, 2016 [28 favorites]


seems like a waste of fuel.

For you.
posted by Apocryphon at 8:00 PM on October 1, 2016 [1 favorite]


I sorta want to share a message of hope with Filipinos generally: there is hope for the future, there is a course to prosperity! (And being mindful of bl1nk's point that it's easy to be a Westerner with opinions about a country that's not my own, I should bow out now.)
posted by iffthen at 8:20 PM on October 1, 2016


The history of Asia is replete with economic success stories that stem from a period of brutal autocracy: South Korea, China, Singapore. Democracy is messy and it requires compromise to maintain consensus, and it's easy to lose decisiveness or progress if the political conversation is so riven with factions that nothing ever gets done.

This.

Growing up from the start of the 1970s in the early years of "ASEAN tigerhood" in Malaysia, yet carrying that Indian passport and going back every couple of years (as expat packages would have it back then), this has ever been teh challenge. Singapore next door (where my parents are now) developed from fishing village to first world city in my own lifetime. I know the trade offs made on a visceral level and then I see the messy chaotic Indian elephant lumbering behind, letting its women die and be vandalized, and like bl1nk, I realize there are no simple silver bullets or 12 step programs that the first world loves so much for the challenges our countries of origin face.
posted by infini at 12:46 AM on October 2, 2016 [1 favorite]


And, like most such places (I'm now more familiar with East Africa) the city (Manila) and the rural areas (other islands) are almost two different planets.
posted by infini at 12:48 AM on October 2, 2016 [1 favorite]




What a compadre, eh.
posted by clavdivs at 10:16 AM on October 2, 2016 [1 favorite]


Duterte might just be getting warmed up, with the drug users...the Philippines also has a potential ethno-religious conflict with Islamist terror groups as well as communist separatists, too.
posted by littlejohnnyjewel at 11:27 AM on October 2, 2016


communist separatists, too.

See upthread
posted by Mister Bijou at 11:35 AM on October 2, 2016


Interesting...the authoritarian populist reaching out to the communists...perhaps Duterte is breaking the mold, with this bold strategy...

But what should they call such an alliance of convenience?

I know!

National Socialism...
posted by littlejohnnyjewel at 12:51 PM on October 2, 2016



Duterte might just be getting warmed up, with the drug users...the Philippines also has a potential ethno-religious conflict with Islamist terror groups as well as communist separatists, too.

If he was just killing for popularity he could have started with the Islamic groups and gotten tons of stuff from the USA instead of condemnation.
posted by Iax at 11:01 PM on October 2, 2016


I thought Duterte had a few stances that you wouldn't expect him to, such as he's supposedly pro-LGBTQ rights and he's for negotiating for peace with the Islamist separatist groups (except for Abu Sayyaf)?
posted by Apocryphon at 11:24 PM on October 3, 2016


If he was just killing for popularity he could have started with the Islamic groups and gotten tons of stuff from the USA instead of condemnation.

This isn't true - the war on terror goes on regardless of anything logical, and Americans don't care if IS kills Philippines nationals; but death squads against the poor is more immediately useful. Hence the 32 million the US openly gave Duterte for this campaign in July.
posted by Coda Tronca at 11:56 PM on October 3, 2016 [1 favorite]




“Once-powerful Philippines Church divided, subdued over drug killings,” Clare Baldwin and Manolo Serapio Jr, Reuters, 10 October 2016
posted by ob1quixote at 12:20 PM on October 10, 2016


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