June 30, Rodrigo Duterte will be inaugurated as the new president of the
Philippines, taking over from Benigno Aqunio.
He has pledged to eradicate corruption and criminality within six months in office.
Brash and controversial, 71-year-old Duterte has also promised to bring back the death penalty and give former dictator Ferdinand Marcos, a hero’s burial…
As Jofelle Tesorio and Ariel Carlos report, there’s a lot of hope, but also uncertainty, about what Duterte will bring.
“As I have said in the miting de avance my parting words was that, ‘if you destroy my country, I will kill you. If you destroy the youth of this country, I will kill you’.”
That’s incoming Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte during a thanksgiving rally in his hometown of Davao City earlier this month.
The crowd cheered as he spoke about the need to crack down on drugs, crime and corruption.
This is Duterte in his element.
“Feel free to call us, the police or do it yourself if you have the gun. You have my support.”
Throughout his election campaign, Duterte courted controversy with outlandish statements on diplomatic relations, rape and freedom of the press.
He’s also said that he’ll give a reward to anyone who turns in or kills a drug dealer.
But whether he can get such an approach through the parliament is questionable, says journalist Redempto Anda.
“The bounty issue is a very dangerous issue. I think he will have a lot of issues with Congress on this because as a policy, war on crime has not worked, not in Colombia, not in United States. In Davao, it is claimed to have worked but if you look really deep into it, it’s an arguable thing,” Anda explains.
Many Filipinos are fearful of crime, especially when it’s related to drugs.
Duterte claims that as mayor he rid Davao City of criminality. But he also had the help of vigilantes who carried out extrajudicial killings.
Civil society activist Jane Timbancaya-Urbanek says this is not something Filipinos should support.
“He promised killing, killing, killing. You cannot right a wrong with another wrong. I am not for extrajudicial killings. We have our constitution, we have our laws. If we must stop criminality and drugs and corruption in his country, we cannot avoid going through the long process of education,” Timbancaya-Urbanek says.
But to his supporters, Duterte is seen as a tough-talking messiah who can solve the ills plaguing the Philippines.
“A lot of Filipinos are looking for a saviour. They think somebody like Duterte can really stop corruption, drugs and criminality in 3 to 6 months. Nobody in the past has ever promised something like that. And people in their disillusionment and their feeling so helpless, they really pinned a lot of hopes on Duterte,” comments Timbancaya-Urbanek.
There are also fears that Duterte could be politically divisive. As one of his first acts in power, Duterte has chosen to have a separate inauguration from incoming vice president Leni Robredo – a first for the Philippines.
He also won’t give Robredo a Cabinet position. In the past, vice-presidents got posts regardless of party-affiliation.
Duterte explains why:
“I am non-committal…You know why? … Bongbong Marcos. I do not want to hurt him. Leni should understand that she belongs to the opposite side.”
Bongbong – the son of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos – lost to Robredo by a slim margin.
Duterte is keen to give Bongbong a cabinet position after a one-year ban on losing candidates.
But some say Duterte’s relationship to the Marcoses is another red flag.
“He has made up his mind to be really cosy with the Marcoses and he is not transparent about these things,” says journalist Redempto Anda.
The years of martial law under Marcos rule were marred by killings, forced disappearances and torture, but Duterte has promised to give Bongbong’s father a hero’s burial, a move that could cause major outrage.
Foreign policy wise, dealing with the South China Sea dispute will be a huge test for Duterte.
A key decision on the issue from the Permanent Tribunal of Arbitration at the Hague, in the Netherlands, is expected to come later this month.
Yet despite the many concerns, the 16 million Filipinos who voted for Duterte believe he has what it takes.
People like private employee, Jaren Artero.
“His character is so genuine. He says what he wants to say, no secrets. He says what he wants to do for the country. I believe that’s a perfect example of a president who is capable of delivering on his promises,” Artero explains.
Duterte is set to be inaugurated in a low-key ceremony at the presidential palace in the coming days.