Filipinos between a rock and hard place as they prepare to vote

Front runner Rodrigo Duterte has promised to end crime and corruption, but the people of the Philippines must ask themselves: what will be the cost?

PUBLISHED : Monday, 09 May, 2016, 12:29am
UPDATED : Monday, 09 May, 2016, 12:40am

Filipinos want security and safety, an end to corruption and a trouble-free commute to work. Rodrigo Duterte, the mayor of southern Davao City, promises that and has a proven track record, which is why he is by far the front runner for today’s presidential election. But he is also controversial for his methods, attitude towards opponents, blunt language and lack of firm policies. Voters need to keep this in mind as they cast ballots for their leader for the next six years.

Duterte contends that to meet his target of ending crime and corruption within three to six months of being elected, he would sanction extrajudicial killings, bypass lawmakers and if necessary, form a revolutionary government to get his way. He has said that he would kill his children if they were found to be drug offenders and has spoken approvingly of womanising and rape. But he has also won plaudits for making Davao safer and its government more efficient, despite accusations that death squads were used to eliminate suspected criminals.

He unashamedly admires late strongman dictator Ferdinand Marcos, who violated human rights and was rampantly corrupt. That is a direct hit at outgoing President Benigno Aquino, whose mother, Corazon Aquino, was democratically elected the autocrat’s successor after a “people power” uprising in 1986. Benigno Aquino has steered the Philippines to economic stability and growth, but there have also been blunders, among them the mishandling of the 2010 Manila bus hijacking in which eight Hong Kong tourists died and the response to super typhoon Haiyan in 2013.

Duterte’s support, especially the young and middle class, is in part due to a lack of confidence that the establishment can bring about change; his opponents are the vice-president, two senators and a former cabinet minister of Aquino’s administration who is the grandson of a past president. But he has also shown a lack of respect for the fundamentals of Philippine society: democracy, rule of law and basic freedoms. Filipinos have to consider what they value most as they vote.