Rodrigo Duterte -- newly elected Philippine President -- is promising major changes for his country’s 102 million people.
His tough campaign for president led some to call him the “Donald Trump of the Philippines.” Like Trump, Duterte sometimes made crude statements during his campaign for his nation’s top elected office.
One week after he won the election, Duterte met with reporters in his hometown of Davao, where he was mayor for 22 years.
Duterte, who takes office June 30, talked about what he would do as president. He suggested his own behavior would change.
He promised a return of the death penalty, allowing police to shoot people involved with organized crime, a ban on smoking and drinking in public areas, and punishing parents who allow children out after 10 p.m.
The government would also crack down on speeding and drunken driving and reduce noise at night, such as loud music so people can sleep, Duterte said. And he promised to fight corruption.
Duterte also seemed to say he would not be the same person who, as a candidate, cursed and made jokes some considered tasteless.
“I have to get used to being the top honcho of the Philippines,” he said.
Patricio Abinales, director of the Asia Studies Program at the University of Hawaii, said many compare Duterte to Trump.
But he disagrees. Unlike Trump, a successful businessman who is running for president as an outsider, Duterte has been an elected government official – mayor – for 22 years, Abinales said.
His promise to reduce crime appealed to voters, Abinales said. As mayor, he put in place tough penalties for crime. But Human Rights Watch said he went too far, using death squads to kill more than 1,000 people.
During his meeting with reporters this week, Duterte talked about hanging people for crimes and letting the public watch.
While running for president, Duterte angered some officials in Australia, the United States and Singapore.
Australian officials criticized him after he told a crude joke about a lay minister from Australia who was held hostage, raped, and then had her throat slashed in 1989.
Duterte said: “I was angry because she was raped, that’s one thing. But she was so beautiful, the mayor should have been first. What a waste.” Duterte later apologized.
About Singapore, Duterte became angry when Singapore’s government said reports that its leaders supported him were not true. Duterte reacted by saying he’d like to burn Singapore’s flag.
Duterte also questioned what role the United States played in the 2002 bombing at a Davao hotel.
The bombing was linked to an American man, who escaped. Duterte questioned if the United States government helped the man escape. Last year, he said, the bombing made him feel a “hatred” for the United States.
Abinales of the University of Hawaii said relations between Duterte and the United States probably will be good if the U.S. explains what it knows about the bombing.
Donald Emmerson is director of Stanford University’s Southeast Asia Program. As is the case with Trump, Emmerson said, it is hard to say what kind of foreign policy Duterte will put together.
“One can argue that the rhetoric in the American presidential campaign also fits the caveat, which is it is not what you say when you are trying to be elected, but what you end up saying and doing” when you are in office, Emmerson said.
Duterte met this week with the Chinese ambassador to the Philippines. He said the meeting is good sign relations between his country and China will improve.
Philippine relations with China have been tense over China’s claims in the South China Sea. The dispute over one of the world’s most important waterways also involves Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei.
Some in the United States worry the Philippines might negotiate to give China control over the Scarborough Shoal in return for more investment in the Philippines.
Emmerson said it is not at all clear what position Duterte will take. But he said it is clear the Philippines and its new president will have more to say because, in 2017, the Philippines becomes chair of the Association of Southeast Asian nations.
In his meeting with reporters this week, Duterte said he plans to be a different kind of president. He said he would use his own pickup truck, rather than the limousine – or big car – provided the president.
“This is not royalty … I’m your president. I would just consider me equal to you in terms of rights and responsibilities,” Duterte said.
I'm Anne Ball.
Bruce Alpert reported on this story for VOA Learning English. Kathleen Struck was the editor.
Words in This Story
crude – adj. rude in a way that makes people uncomfortable especially talking about sexual matters in a rude way
crack down – v. serious attempt to punish people for doing something that is not allowed
curse – v. to use offensive words when you speak
honcho - n. the top person in an organization or group
rhetoric – n. language that is intended to influence people and that may not be honest or reasonable
caveat – n. an explanation or warning that should be remembered when you are doing or thinking about something
royalty – n. members of the royal family