Forming An Opinion on Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte

In the past few weeks, many people have asked my opinion on the new Philippine President, Rodrigo Duterte. At first, I was embarrassed to tell them that I didn’t know much about Duterte. During the Philippine election season, I was more focused on learning more about the trials of the Lumad people in Mindanao who were struggling to keep their land from the encroachment of mining companies. So these past few weeks I’ve been doing all I can to read articles and talk to activists to learn all I can about President Duterte.

Many people have compared Duterte to Donald Trump. Both men have blunt and often vulgar language to express their political points. Duterte is a lot more complex a political figure than Trump though. While Trump has often scapegoated minority groups like Muslims and immigrants, Duterte has been a strong advocate for the rights of minority groups like Muslims and the LGBT community. Trump leans strongly towards the Right side of the political spectrum, while many of Duterte’s economic policies lean strongly towards the Left.

Instead of comparing Duterte to Trump, I think a more apt comparison to an American political leader would be President Lyndon Johnson. Like Duterte, LBJ was a course and often vulgar politician. Johnson often used ruthless means to acquire power. Once he acquired that power, though, Johnson often used that power for noble ends. I have very mixed feelings towards Lyndon Johnson’s presidency. If I was an adult in the 1960s, I would’ve supported Lyndon Johnson on civil rights and his Great Society programs to help the poor. But I would’ve opposed Johnson’s policies on the Vietnam War.

Based on what I’ve learned so far, I have similar mixed feelings towards President Duterte. I support Duterte’s efforts on agrarian reform, his efforts to reign in the power of the mining companies who have been complicit in many of the human rights abuses against indigenous people, his efforts to grant more autonomy to Mindanao, and his push for peace talks with the communist and Muslim insurgents in the Mindanao area.

I am deeply opposed, however, to Duterte’s encouragement of the police and of ordinary citizens killing people who are suspected of crime or drug dealing. Killing people without giving them a chance to defend themselves in an impartial court of law means that many innocent people will be killed as well as the guilty. I worry that there is nothing to keep the police or vigilantes accountable so that they do not abuse this right to kill. Right now the Senate of the Philippines convened a Committee on Justice and Human Rights to investigate the charges of extrajudicial killings.

Camila Domonoske wrote in an NPR article about the recent spate of killings in the Philippines:

Rodrigo Duterte, the new president of the Philippines, campaigned as a tough-on-crime candidate, threatening death for drug dealers.

And in the seven weeks since he took office, nearly 1,800 alleged criminals have died — at the hands of police or under mysterious circumstances. The wave of extrajudicial killings has prompted outcry from human rights watchdogs, the Catholic Church and the United Nations.

Now the Philippine Senate is investigating the deaths. Observers believed there had been hundreds. Then, in a committee meeting Monday, the national police chief said that since Duterte was elected, police operations have killed 712 alleged drug traffickers and users. An additional 1,067 killings occurred under unclear circumstances, he said; observers believe some were carried out by vigilantes.

With all of these killings, I’ve been baffled that Duterte’s popularity in the Philippines has risen to over 91%. I did some researching this week, and part of Duterte’s popularity stems from the exhaustion of Filipinos who are tired of the crime and corruption in the Philippines.

Felipe Villamor and Richard C. Paddock wrote a good article for the New York Times about this. They wrote:

Under Mr. Duterte, who campaigned on a pledge to rid the country of drug dealers, 712 suspects have been killed in police operations, National Police Chief Ronald dela Rosa said. Vigilante killings have totaled 1,067 during the same period, he said, although it was unclear how many were directly related to the illegal drug trade…

…Human rights advocates have been horrified by the killings, but Mr. Duterte’s popularity has soared among a large segment of Filipinos weary of crime and enthusiastic about his pledge to rid the country of drug dealers…

…Richard Javad Heydarian, who teaches political science at De La Salle University in Manila, said many members of the public were giving Mr. Duterte wide leeway to deliver on his promise to suppress the drug scourge within three to six months. Mr. Duterte’s “shock and awe” approach reflects not only his commitment to eradicating drugs, Mr. Heydarian said, but also extremely high public expectations.

“The more fundamental question at this point is, why the seemingly unprecedented support for the new president despite global criticism of his uncompromising approach?” he said. “I think it largely has to do with dissipated public trust in existing judicial institutions, a sense that the normal democratic processes are not coping with the magnitude of the crisis.”

David Iaconangelo made a similar point in an article in the Christian Science Monitor. He wrote:

Duterte’s rise to power was also based upon the perception that he would end a different kind of impunity: that of a tiny, insular political class beholden less to their parties and constituents than to their own interests.
More than two-thirds of Filipino legislators belong to political dynasties, noted Richard Javad Heydarian, political science professor at Manila’s De La Salle University, in an April analysis for CNN. Those same dynasties have been the beneficiaries of an overwhelming portion of recent economic growth…

…human rights and faith groups and the families of many of those killed say that state-sponsored violence, which has prompted 114,833 people to turn themselves in, as either drug addicts or dealers, has mainly taken its toll on poor Filipinos who are seldom given the chance to defend themselves from accusations, The New York Times wrote earlier this month.
Phelim Kine, a deputy director of Human Rights Watch in Asia, told The New York Times that the vast majority of those killed were “not the wealthy and powerful drug lords who actually have meaningful control over supply of drugs on the streets in the Philippines.”

A good analysis of Rodrigo Duterte is to be found in the article The Method to Dutere’s Madness by the website Stratfor. As the first Philippine President from Mindanao, Duterte comes to Manila in a weak political situation. The article stated:

…as the first president from the south, he’s also poorly positioned to unite Manila behind his plans. His arrival is inherently disruptive to the entrenched power structures in Manila, and he did not inherit the sort of party machinery he needs to compel the bureaucracy, judiciary and security forces to carry out his priorities…

…Duterte’s early moves are, in part, an attempt to consolidate power in Manila. He is capitalizing on his present popularity while laying the foundation he thinks is key to the country’s long-term modernization. For example, his tactic of calling out allegedly corrupt officials and business leaders is a way to help him build public support and keep potential rivals at bay, in a manner similar to Xi Jinping’s anti-graft campaign in China.

Duterte’s confrontational style, though, has many risks. The Stratfor article states:

The primary risk is that Duterte will open up power struggles on too many fronts and find himself at odds with too many powerful enemies, leading to political instability such as that which plagued the Philippines from the late 1980s through the early 2000s. His ambitious initiatives will run into resistance from bureaucracy and the courts, as well as elements in the four pillars of political power in the Philippines: the church, the military, the business community and organized labor.

Already, for example, the military is suspicious about Duterte’s peace initiatives and his naming of communists to his Cabinet, along with his intention to reorient and scale back the military modernization drive launched under his predecessor, Benigno Aquino III. With Duterte turning his focus to issues such as tax evasion and stricter enforcement of environmental and labor regulations, he is liable to lose support among some industry leaders…

Meanwhile, the extrajudicial killings of drug suspects has provoked criticism from the church and civil society groups, as well as the United Nations and the United States. The fight Duterte has initiated against illicit drugs is indeed one he will struggle to keep under control, as it is likely to stir power struggles and unleash waves of score-settling violence among rival factions. It may also inadvertently strengthen the empires of some corrupt police, soldiers and government officials who are involved in the drug trade. All told, the violence is likely to get worse before it gets better, and the more seemingly innocent bodies pile up, the more the church and public may turn against him.

Here are two youtube videos of the Committee on Justice and Human Rights investigating the rise in extrajudicial killings and rampant executions of criminal suspects

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A Forum on New Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte – July 2016

On July 15 I attended a forum in De Anza College for Filipino Americans to learn more about the new Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte. Sponsored by National Alliance For Filipino Concerns Northern California, the Brotherhood for Duterte USA Chapter, the Digong Duterte Supporters NorCal and the Migrante Northern California, the De Anza forum talked about details of President Duterte’s agenda: programs that seek to help Filipino workers, farmers and overseas workers; describe his agrarian reform proposals; strengthen overseas consulates so it can better protect overseas Filipino workers from exploitaiton; and shift the balance of power from 200 families that control most of the Philippines’ economic and political power to the vast majority of people with little power.

Rico Foz talked about how foreign investors and the government control most of the economy, and how the military protect their vested interests. Over 70% of the Philippine population are farmers, and agrarian reform is needed so that this important sector of the economy is revitalized. Though the Philippines has had strong economic growth in the past few years, most of that wealth has gone to only 200 families that control most of the political and economic power in the country. The Public Private Project, which receives 200 billion pesos, was contracted to only 4 groups. How do you transition an economy that benefits only a few into an economy that benefits everyone?

Bernadette Herrera gave an emotional and moving talk of her experiences as an immigrant worker. The large majority of Filipinos are workers and farmers, yet they do not get to enjoy the fruits of their labor. She supports the Department of Agriculture’s attempts for land dispersal, so that farmers get to own the land they farm. Bernadette hopes that Duterte keeps his promise to end contractualization, so that overseas Filipino workers can be less vulnerable to being exploited. She is supportive of Duterte’s campaign to crack down on crime, as it has been a scourge that has had a terrible effect on poor communities and the young.

Reynaldo Aralar Jr. talked about Duterte’s accomplishments as mayor of Davao City. Before Duterte became mayor, Davao City was one of the most dangerous cities in the Philippines. Through his tough anti-crime measures, Davao City became one of the safest cities in Asia. His administration spent 12 million pesos on drug treatment centers, and he acquired 10 ambulances for a 911 emergency program that helps both poor and rich neighborhoods with equal efficiency. He passed a Woman Development Code that protects women from discrimination in the workplace.

I enjoyed meeting and talking to other Filipino Americans. I used to have a lot of Filipino American friends, but since I graduated from college, I haven’t really hung out with many Filipino Americans. It was especially nice to be around Filipino Americans who only speak English, as I was always criticized when I was young for not being able to speak Tagalog. These other Filipino Americans shared similar painful experiences.

I talked with a few lawyers, editors and supporters of Duterte who attended. I learned a lot that I didn’t know before about Duterte and Filipino culture. I look at things from an American lens, so there are some things that Filipinos see in Duterte that I don’t really get.

I have a greater respect for the progressive side of Duterte, but I still have some reservations about the dark side of Duterte. Some people talked about extrajudicial killings, and it didn’t really rid me of my unease at Duterte’s methods for getting rid of crime. So I came out of this forum with the same mixed feelings for President Duterte that I had coming into the forum. I really like a lot of things about Duterte, but really dislike some things about him.

Here are photos I took of the Forum

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Republican Criticisms of Donald Trump

I got a chance to watch bits and pieces of both the Democratic and the Republican Conventions these past two weeks. The Democratic Convention was better run, with better speeches and the speakers were a greater representation of the diverse population of this country. The Republican Convention, though, had more drama, as many of the Republican Party have great antipathy towards their Republican nominee for President, Donald Trump. The most dramatic part of the Republican Convention was when Ted Cruz spoke and wouldn’t endorse Donald Trump for President. Watching Paul Ryan, Marco Rubio, Mitch McConnell and many other leaders endorse Trump, in spite of their criticisms of his unsuitability for the office of the Presidency, I’m glad there was a speaker in the Convention who had the courage to take a stand against Trump. I just wish it wasn’t Ted Cruz. I have to give grudging respect to Cruz, though, for being willing to take the criticism and hold firm in his beliefs.

In 1964 another Republican took a strong stand for his beliefs against an extremist element in the Republican Party. Harold Meyerson wrote in the American Prospect:

In ’64, a party that had been dominated by moderate Eastern elites, friendly to civil rights and even resigned to living with unions, personified by such big-spending governors as Nelson Rockefeller (of New York), George Romney (Michigan) and William Scranton (Pennsylvania), was upended by the triumph of Barry Goldwater. The Arizona senator had voted against the Civil Rights bill earlier that year, railed against government and unions, cozied up to Southern segregationists, and declined to denounce far-right conspiracy theorists who believed that many of the nation’s leading centrists were actually Communist agents.

…Delegates voted down a measure declaring the party’s support for the Civil Rights Act, and a Rockefeller’s resolution to denounce extremism. As Rockefeller spoke to the convention, the delegates erupted in boos and catcalls—much as they did last night when Cruz pointedly declined to support Trump.

Cruz’s heresy came in a cause a good deal less noble than Rockefeller’s. He obviously calculated that if Trump loses, he’ll be the candidate best positioned to pick up the pieces, the guy who stood on principle—unlike Marco Rubio, Scott Walker and other losing White House hopefuls who knuckled under. (Jeb Bush and John Kasich also declined to endorse, but they’re not likely to seek the presidency again.)

…Cruz’s decision not to endorse likely wasn’t purely a matter of calculation, however. In the course of the campaign, after all, Trump tweeted an unflattering photo of Cruz’s wife and accused his father of involvement in President Kennedy’s assassination. These are the kinds of things that just might deter a guy from endorsing the perpetrator for the office of president.

Nelson Rockefeller represented a moderate Republican type that was supportive of the civil rights of African Americans, women and other minorities. For several decades, the Republican Party was better in the area of civil rights than the Democrats, whose Dixecrat wing were strong supporters of segregation laws in the South. Because of this historic support of civil rights, many African Americans like Jackie Robinson were Republicans.

In 1964, however, the Republican Party began a major shift away from its historic support of civil rights. When Jackie Robinson attended the 1964 Republican Party to support Nelson Rockefeller and voice his opposition to Barry Goldwater’s anti-civil rights stands, Robinson got involved with several shouting matches with Goldwater supporters. Rockefeller made a bold stance against the right wing extremism of Goldwater. In an article in the PBS website of the documentary on the Rockefeller family, it stated:

The scene was set for the battle over the heart and soul of the Republican Party. After years as the target of ridicule, the conservative wing of the party had staged an impressive comeback through a grassroots campaign in the South, the Southwest and the West. Their leader was Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater, a staunch critic of the liberal slant he perceived among his fellow Republicans…

…The atmosphere at the Republican convention was heated as Nelson Rockefeller stepped up to the podium to address the belligerent crowd: ‘During this year I have crisscrossed this nation, fighting … to keep the Republican party the party of all the people … and warning of the extremist threat, its danger to the party, and danger to the nation,’ he said, taking his time as the crowd cheered ‘We want Barry!’ ‘These extremists feed on fear, hate and terror, [they have] no program for America and the Republican Party… [they] operate from dark shadows of secrecy. It is essential that this convention repudiate here and now any doctrinaire, militant minority whether Communist, Ku Klux Klan or Birchers.’ It was, according to many, Nelson Rockefeller’s finest moment — but it did little to stop the conservative wave that was transforming the GOP.

Decades after Nelson Rockefeller made his principled stand against the extremism of his Republican Party, the Republican Party now embraces a candidate that caters to the xenophobia and racism of an extremist element of the Republican Party.

Though many Republicans embrace Trump and his ideas, many more Republicans are repulsed at the Trump candidacy and have fought the racist elements in the Republican Party. I’m hoping that the battle that will take place within the Republican Party will hopefully move the GOP back to the type of party that was represented by Nelson Rockefeller and Jackie Robinson.

Here are some video links of Republicans criticizing the Trump candidacy.

In this youtube video, Republican presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz had harsh words for rival Donald Trump after Trump alleged that Ted Cruz’s father was involved in a conspiracy to assassinate John F. Kennedy and Trump made disparaging remarks about Cruz’s wife.

In this youtube video former 2016 Republican candidate, Ohio Gov. John Kasich talks about his reservations about Donald Trump.

In this youtube video former Communications Director to President George W. Bush Nicolle Wallace spoke to Jeb Bush about Donald Trump, his mastery of the media and whether he’d stick to his proposed policies if elected president.

In this video Marco Rubio issued a sharp rebuke to Donald Trump’s divisive rhetoric during the Florida primary.

In this video Sen. Lindsey Graham called Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump a race-baiting, xenophobic religious bigot.

Mitt Romney suggested that Donald Trump’s election could legitimize racism and misogyny, ushering in a change in the moral fabric of American society

in this video Paul Ryan told reporters that presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump’s comments about Judge Gonzalo Curiel are “textbook definition of a racist comment.”

In this video David Brooks, a Republican journalist who works for the New York Times, talks about why he doesn’t support Donald Trump

In this video, George Will explains in detail the reason why he’s opted to leave the Republican Party

A New York Times video about anti-Trump Republicans and their struggles with their political party

In this video, Republicans Doug Elmets and Jennifer Pierotti Lim discussed why they’re voting for Democratic presidential nominee on final day of the Democratic National Convention. Elmets is a political consultant and former speechwriter for Ronald Reagan, while Pierotti Lim is a member of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

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A Talk in Stanford University by the Lumad Leaders – April 26, 2016

On April 26, 2016 attended a talk in Stanford University by indigenous community leaders from Mindanao on a historic tour of the United States to raise public awareness about the struggle for their human rights and ancestral land. These 5 leaders are a part of the Lumad indigenous people in the Mindanao area of the Philippines.

Because Lumad land is rich with natural resources, multinational corporations have been taking their land to mine the area to get its valuable minerals. Government policies encourage these mining companies to exploit the land, and with the cooperation of paramilitary forces, these two groups have exploited the Lumad indigenous people and killed their leaders to intimidate the Lumad. Many Lumad find education as a powerful tool to help them defend themselves against exploitation, so many Lumad schools have been raided by company and paramilitary forces. Recently, indigenous people in several villages have been driven out by paramilitary forces and they live currently in substandard conditions in refugee camps.

The El Nino conditions that has brought rain to California has had the opposite effect in many areas of Mindanao. El Nino has brought severe drought in the region, and many indigenous people are facing near starvation. Recently several thousand unarmed farmers protested to the government to release rice to starving villagers, only to face gunfire from police units in Kidapawan.

The leaders’ slogan is “Food, land, justice!” The indigenous people of the area are farmers, so the land is vital to their community. During their trip to the United States, the Lumad leaders were astounded by the abundance of food in this country. Coming from a drought-ridden area with starving people, the Lumad leaders ask Americans to remember where their food comes from.

Here is a youtube video with photos I took of the Lumad talk

TFC Balitang America did a youtube report on the Stanford University talk from Lumad representatives who witnessed the deaths of their leaders and were part of the rice protest in Kidapawan that resulted in deaths and injuries of numerous community members. Lakbay Lumad USA is the title of the U.S. tour that not only shares the Lumad culture but also what they call are the struggles they face from big mining corporations that covet the abundant natural resources on their land.

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A May Day March for Immigration Reform and Housing Justice

On May 1, 2016, I went to Mountain View, California to walk in their May Day march for immigration reform and housing justice. In the past 6 months, many people in my apartment complex have had to move out due to rising rents, so I sympathize with both the immigrant activists and housing activists.

At around December, everyone in our complex received a notice stating that our rents would rise to $3000. The new owners of the complex had decided to no longer accept a government subsidy that would limit the amount that they would raise the rents. During that time whenever we would see a neighbor, we would always ask each other the same question: “Are you moving out?” It was sad for all of us, as it was a friendly community where everyone would say hi to everyone else. I frequently got into long conversations with my neighbors as we were doing laundry. Lisa and I eventually found a new home, but we worry about our neighbors who are trying to find an affordable place in the Bay Area that is not too far from their work.

I’ve always been a strong supporter of immigrant rights and immigration reform. I felt that this year I should be especially vocal in my support for immigrants because of the hateful anti-immigrant rhetoric coming from Donald Trump, Ted Cruz and many of the Republican candidates in their Presidential primaries. Mitt Romney recently stated that he could never support Donald Trump because he was worried that Trump’s rhetoric would cause trickle down racism that would adversely affect the Latino, Muslim and other minority communities. Romney said in a CNN interview with Wolf Blitzer:

I don’t want to see trickle-down racism. I don’t want to see a president of the United States saying things which change the character of the generations of Americans that are following. Presidents have an impact on the nature of our nation, and trickle-down racism, trickle-down bigotry, trickle-down misogyny, all these things are extraordinarily dangerous to the heart and character of America.

I think Romney is right. The illegal immigrants that are the target of so much of Trump’s and Cruz’s venom have actually had a very beneficial effect on America’s economy. Most of them are not criminals or rapists, but are hard working people who want to support their families and insure a brighter future for their children. To try to scapegoat illegal immigrants for the problems of this country is the worst form of demagoguery.

Here is a youtube video I made of the May Day rally in Mountain View.

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A Vigil in San Jose for the Orlando Shootings

Two weeks ago I went to the City Hall in San Jose, California, to attend a vigil for the victims of the Orlando shootings. The vigil started at 6 p.m., but I came at around 7:30 p.m. so I missed a few speeches.

The crowd was in a very sad and somber mood. Many people were giving each other long hugs and pats on the back. In other rallies and protests, when I took people’s photos, I’d often engage in conversations with them. But in this vigil, I’d take a photo and they’d smile and thank me but not want to say much.

I asked one person if there were any Muslims in the vigil who were there for solidarity. The person said that she saw quite a few Muslims who attended and gave speeches to the crowd to show that the Muslim community was there in solidarity with the LGBT community. There was no anger towards Muslims in this group, only a sense of deep hurt and anger towards the prevalence of homophobia that still affects their lives. A few speakers talked about how they still have to be careful at work about revealing their sexual orientation.

During the vigil, I met a good friend, Mary Ann Donegan, and her sister. She’s a great photographer and the person who inspired me to take photos of vigils and political rallies. We both wandered in the crowd to take photos of people so that we could share it to the wider Facebook audience.

Here is a youtube video I made of the vigil in San Jose.

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Groups Endorsing Hillary Clinton

During the Democratic primary season, I will be supporting Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nominee for president. I think both Hillary and Bernie are good candidates, and both are far better than the Republican nominee, Donald Trump. Hillary is more moderate than Bernie, but I think she can pushed farther to the left if social movements are successful in pushing the political center farther left. I support Hillary because of her toughness, and her realistic view of the political obstacles and the conservative opposition that any Democratic president will face if elected. Ever since the Republicans gained the majorities in the House of Representatives in 2010, I’ve seen how they obstructed President Obama’s initiatives on immigration reform, gun control, climate change, the minimum wage, stopping the deportation of certain illegal immigrants, and infrastructure spending. Because of gerrymandering, I do not think the Republicans will lose control of the House, even if Donald Trump loses badly in the general elections. Both a President Hillary or a President Bernie will have problems with an obstructionist House. I want a Democratic President who is a tough political strategist who can fight the Republican House and pass some meaningful legislation.

Here are some youtube videos of groups supporting Hillary Clinton.

Hillary Clinton has earned the support of moms whose sons and daughters died due to police violence. The mothers of Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, Sandra Bland, Dontre Hamilton and Jordan Davis have come together as Mothers of the Movement in support of Hillary Clinton. Here is a February 2016 event with Hillary Clinton, Gabby Gifford and the Mothers of the Movement.

In October 2015, Hillary Clinton celebrated LGBT equality and commited to the work that still lies ahead with Human Rights Campaign’s volunteer leaders

On Jan. 10, 2016, Planned Parenthood Action Fund announced its historic endorsement of Hillary Clinton for president of the United States — the first time the organization has ever endorsed in a presidential primary. Watch the video of Planned Parenthood Action Fund President Cecile Richards announcing the endorsement.

In November 2015, SEIU endorsed Hillary Clinton

The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers endorsed former U.S. Secretary of State and honorary IAM member Hillary Clinton to be the next president of the United States. The move came after a unanimous vote by union leaders and an internal survey of IAM members, who voiced strong support for an early endorsement and named Mrs. Clinton as the overwhelming favorite.

On October 14, 2015, the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades endorsed Hillary Clinton for President at the IUPAT District Council 15 Training center in Henderson, Nevada.

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