President Duterte: A Perfect Example of Why President Trump’s Character Matters



Those grappling over whether Donald Trump’s questionable character will play a sizeable role in the White House throughout the next four years should look no further, surprisingly, than the Philippines, to witness an important example of how character and personality can influence policy.

Trump has been criticized on multiple occasions for making controversial comments, often saying what seems to be exactly on his mind. He has fired shots at the media, accusing reporters of taking what he says out of context to purposefully misrepresent him. He has openly discussed his desire to build a stronger relationship with Russia, and he once made headlines for joking about sexual assault. Think this is just another briefing on President Donald Trump? It’s not.

President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines has made comments strikingly similar to those made by President Donald Trump. Since his election in June, President Duterte has quickly become known on the world stage for acting on his promise to end the ongoing Filipino drug war by exterminating 100,000 drug criminals within his first six months in office.

Duterte appeared in the media in October for aligning himself with Hitler, saying, “Hitler massacred 3 million Jews. Now there are 3 million drug addicts. There are. I’d be happy to slaughter them.” Under his leadership last year, 1,067 of the 2,000 Filipinos killed so far have been murdered by vigilantes, as Duterte has offered cash rewards and medals to citizens who hunt drug criminals themselves.

The similarities between comments made by Duterte and Trump can no way serve as predictions of how Trump’s presidency will take shape, but rather as a testament that character or personality does influence action. The similarities in personality between the two men are not evidence that Donald Trump is planning to align himself with leaders like Hitler or Duterte, however, his character could have a profound effect on his policy, as it has for the Filipino president.

Throughout his campaign for president, President Trump displayed a sort of sore-loser, victimized personality when criticized, which often prompted him to lash out, a potentially disastrous technique in dealing with foreign leaders and states. Duterte’s similar personality has gotten him in trouble as well. Perhaps the most well-known case of this was when he called President Obama an offensive name prior to an important upcoming meeting. After these comments were made, Obama canceled the meeting.

Furthermore, Trump and Duterte have also suggested they want to develop closer ties with Vladimir Putin, Trump hinting that he admires Putin’s strong grip on Russia, and Duterte saying he was “excited” to meet Putin prior to a meeting with the Russian president in August.

This suggests both men admire Putin’s authoritative character, and how it plays into his governance.

Finally, both Trump and Duterte have made jokes about sexual assaulting women, Trump in 2005 when he bragged about doing anything to a woman because of his celebrity status, even without her consent, and Duterte, when he joked about a journalist who was raped and killed in Australia, saying that she was “beautiful,” and that he should “have been first” to commit this act.

Although some believe that this attitude towards women does not manifest in political decision-making, it does. Duterte was reported to have catcalled a journalist during his campaign for president, when she asked him a question at a press conference. This initial “locker-room talk,” as Trump called it, is a refusal to take the rights of women seriously, which affects dealings with professional women as well as laws put in place to protect women’s rights.

The “colorful” personalities, as some have described both men, are and will continue to impact current affairs. They are not the same person, and do not have the same agenda. But they are written about together as a reminder that personal character should not be underestimated in politics.


Image by Johanna M. Costigan/ Bard Watch.

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