He makes outrageous, offensive statements. He praised a brutal dictator. He told his supporters to turn to violence.
Two of those three statements describe President Duterte and the American political figure to whom he has been compared, Donald Trump.
The third statement applies to Duterte, but isn’t quite a perfect fit for Trump, the Republican nominee for U.S. president. At least not yet.
In making the false accusation that Hillary Clinton wants to take away the right of Americans to own guns, he warned that “if she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks. Although the Second Amendment people, maybe there is, I don’t know.”
Many interpreted the remark as a subtle endorsement of violence against the Democratic nominee. The Trump camp has vehemently denied this.
Still, New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman called it an “ambiguous wink wink” to Trump’s most extremist supporters.
“What he said was ambiguous — slightly menacing, but with just enough plausible deniability that, of course, he was not suggesting an assassination.”
Duterte, as Filipinos and the rest of the world already knows, couldn’t care less about plausible deniability.
“If you know of any addicts, go ahead and kill them yourself as getting their parents to do it would be too painful,” he said shortly before being sworn in.
The U.S. media calls Duterte the Trump of the East. It’s becoming clearer that they got it backwards. It’s Trump who must be called the Duterte of the West.
It is Duterte who is setting the standard for obnoxious, dangerous leadership.
It is he who morphed from a popular and controversial presidential candidate notorious for saying outrageous things to a chief executive who, less than two months after taking power, is quickly surpassing some of the biggest fears about his rule.
We’re just six weeks into the Duterte era.
But it’s clear he will now be known for two tragedies.
He instigated an anti-illegal drugs campaign that has degenerated into a bloodbath.
What many others have said is worth repeating here: Duterte’s war on drugs is a war on the poor. How many Filipinos have been killed? More than 500? 600? 700? Many of us have probably lost count.
And Duterte will also be remembered for saying that it’s okay to give one of the most ruthless rulers in history a hero’s burial. Duterte also doesn’t seem to be bothered that Ferdinand Marcos is ranked No. 2 among the world’s most corrupt rulers.
Now, Trump hasn’t gone that far. But he has offered some words of praise for another dictator, Saddam Hussein and his tactics for dealing with opponents.
“Saddam Hussein throws a little gas, everyone goes crazy, ‘Oh he’s using gas!’” Trump said, referring to the Iraqi dictator’s use of chemical weapons.
He also approved of Saddam Hussein’s lack of respect for due process and the rule of law.
“You know what he used to do to terrorists?” Trump said at a campaign rally. “A one day trial and shoot him…and the one day trial usually lasted five minutes, right? There was no terrorism then.”
Trump has called the Philippines a “terrorist nation.” But it’s not unthinkable he would also approve of and maybe even be awed by Duterte’s purported campaign against the terrorism of illegal drugs.
After all, the Philippine leader to whom he should be compared doesn’t even bother with five-minute trials.
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