Daniel Halliday
Nov 21 · Last update 2 mo. ago.
How did Rodrigo Duterte come to power?
There is no shortage of controversy surrounding Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte. His eagerness to use brash language to strain his country's international relations is only overshadowed by his disturbing human rights record. But how did Rodrigo Duterte become the president of the Philippines?
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As a criminal who used corruption to forward his political career
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“He is a man of and for the people”
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Using a tough talking narrative
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As a criminal who used corruption to forward his political career

Rodrigo Duterte is a criminal who has personally admitted to repeatedly breaking the law, ordering to have people murdered and indeed killing three criminal suspects himself. He has used the corruption of the Philippines as a springboard for getting elected and to subsequently accumulate both wealth and power. As a leader he is now using his corrupt authoritarian government to sponsor an unprecedented amount of extrajudicial killings in the country, and to build relations with other authoritarian regimes internationally.

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“He is a man of and for the people”

Despite being the son of a governor and coming from a privileged family, Rodrigo Duterte portrayed himself as a humble no-nonsense man of action in a run up to being elected mayor of Davao city. He spent 7 terms as mayor before running for president with a similar campaign. Filipinos often express the opinion that despite his distasteful conduct Duterte is an honest politician that gets things done, and is not afraid to speak out about important issues such as US and Philippine relations and past US war crimes from the Philippine-American War. It seems for the vast majority of Filipinos the hard working and down-to-earth image Duterte portrays is a welcome change to the usual out of touch politicians, and “some action is better than no action” being a common sentiment.

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Using a tough talking narrative

As a long time governor of Davao city Duterte gained the reputation of being an iron fisted leader, and used that to claim to be able to solve the various social problems of the country in the run for President in 2015. In a similar way to Donald Trump afterward him, he utilised crude language to build the image of a no-nonsense, straight talker. But in such a religious country the fight fire with fire narrative has become a popular one, and as he has come into power he has continued to be an aggressive authoritarian.

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