On returning to the Philippines after 10 years in England; after a particularly exasperating day dealing with corrupt bureaucrats who applied glacial efficiency with anyone who would not pay a bribe, I lost my temper. It was clear that nothing had changed, just new paint on the walls and softer chairs for the clerks (our overlords) in the government office. I concluded that what was needed was not a reformist government but rather, Zorro! Or someone very much like him, who could cut through red-tape and carve his initials on the backsides of every corrupt official and thief in the land.
A few years and plenty of episodes later we turned to prayer, for several months before our last elections we prayed each morning for change and a good president. It was clear to us that the ‘establishment’ candidates had nothing what-so-ever to offer the country. A mixture of millionaires and billionaires, political or business dynasties who only serve their own self-interest and those of their kind, entirely disconnected from the woes and realities of the majority of people who live day to day.
President Duterte was a last minute entry. He could see not only what the problems affecting the people are, but what needs to be done in order to succeed in tackling them, where others have lacked any real resolve.
Everyone knows what and who the problems are, it’s the first time anyone has tried to change it. It put to my mind Chicago in the 30’s, the gangsters ruling the town and the untouchables beginning to make inroads. Criminals with billions to lose will resist change; they have bought politicians, media, judges, police as well as using lethal force. A collision of values will produce casualties on both sides of the divide. He will go after the corrupt politicians & businessmen, government officials, insurgent groups, those who exploit workers and the drugs distribution networks, no criminal is safe .... .should they be?
Many of the elite in the church oppose him too, as his manner is less cordial than they are used to and he was quick to challenge them to reform their hypocrisy too, offering to provide a list of clerics with mistresses and offspring; even in the church the problems are already known but unwilling to change.
He seems to have had a rather unfair press so far in my opinion, I think he is the best chance the country has had in living memory and as he never sought power but rather took up the gauntlet because he knew he must, not because he wanted to. That is a mark of authentic leadership. I think history will view Duterte as a man who walked with destiny and gave his country the opportunity to change.