Skip to main content

The Political Phenomenon That Is Duterte

Reginaldo is an educator, a father, and a frustrated pilot. Hope his play on words will elevate you higher and make you feel better.

President Rodrigo Duterte

President Rodrigo Duterte

Duterte in the Eyes of a Simple Man

Once in a while, someone challenges the consensus and breaks the monotony of life in the Philippines and beyond. Dubbed the Dirty Harry of modern politics, Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Roa Duterte has proven through his track record how to make a seemingly lifeless and irreparable place turn into one of the cleanest, most organized, and highest-performing cities in the world.

The reports will tell what he has done and what has worked well for him and his constituents. Following the presidential elections, he vowed to do the same for the entire country, enumerating his objectives as platforms to the people who accepted and vowed to support him to the end.

However, there are some who do not agree with his style and courses of action to the point that Filipinos are, at times, wondering if they have made a mistake in voting for him. Is he a true superhero or a loose cannon? This article is written to highlight who is the man behind the name and what may be his true intentions.

The Machiavellian Principle Behind the Man

While I was taking my graduate studies, I met an interesting professor who taught us that the most popular and powerful political and military leaders around the world read and follow two important books namely The Prince by Machiavelli and Sun Tzu’s Art of War. According to our professor, these two pieces of literature serve as the Bible and blueprint of these leaders, and close observation of their decisions and actions will reveal just that.

One of the first quotes which I can easily relate to Duterte is the tactic of being a lion and a fox at the same time. The Prince reads, “The lion cannot protect himself from traps, and the fox cannot defend himself from wolves. One must therefore be a fox to recognize traps, and a lion to frighten wolves.” In the interest of discussion, please take note of the last sentence in the quote.

Notice that the fox recognizing traps can be broken down into simpler forms as being cunning, like the Biblical teaching of being cunning as a serpent while being gentle as a dove. This cunning ability of Duterte cannot be easily discerned since he is sly. However, I would like to present some evidence that may be signs of his superior and cunning abilities.

The International News Smokescreen

In the international arena, the world seems to believe that the Philippines is now an enemy of the United States (US), following our leaning towards China and Russia. There are many international and local media that have constantly been making this image to the point that some people have believed so. Personally, I am not buying it. My first piece of evidence is that here in Angeles City, we live near the Clark Air Base, and there are many and constant US planes going in and out of the air space. Right now, you can hear rotors of Ospreys if you would drive about ten clicks from where I am sitting.

There are many Facebook videos of private individuals showing US military presence in many different areas in the country, even at some point questioning their purpose since either local fishermen are alarmed at their length of stay, or simple hikers and trekkers could not believe that sophisticated pieces of equipment are strategically present in such areas of mountainous regions.

However, perhaps one of the greatest bloopers was when US President Donald Trump’s message to the Philippine President leaked to the public, claiming that the former guaranteed the latter that no harm would come from North Korea since the US has tactical submarines in the Philippine waters, ready to blow NK any time. I mean, is this not so obvious then that the two leaders are close and that the whole news about this and that was nothing but a great charade? The funny thing is that many people wonder why the media networks do not report so. Well, perhaps we know better if we dig deeper.

The Partnership With China

The Chinese partnership is portrayed in seemingly friendly bilateral negotiations that favor China. While many countries seem to be weary of Huawei's 5G espionage on its consumers, the Philippines seems to welcome all proposals favoring the latter. In fact, people's sentiments are usually sour over the choice of partnering which China in relation to the Build, Build, Build Program. I do not know about you, but if this is so, why would Japan still get better and larger projects while foreign and local companies also get some of the projects?

I understand that many powerful and rich corporations are owned by Chinese-Filipinos who may seem to support China's bid to control the archipelago. However, it will then be counter-productive for Filipino-Chinese businessmen to really allow the Chinese government to have a direct hand in the construction of roads, buildings, and other infrastructures when these can be easily done by other rich and highly successful Filipino-Chinese individuals and corporations. Why would San Miguel Corporation suddenly take billion-peso projects for the government?

I know I am neither good in business nor in politics, but for me, it seems clear that just as Japan has constantly been helping build the nation, Duterte's decision to allow China into the archipelago (which secretly has long been happening take the Senator Trillianes case' backdoor agreement through the previous government or Cory Aquino's letting the Chinese build artificial islands in contested waters and later becoming militarized back in 1986) is only a public acceptance so that the people can see and criticize the process and outcomes.

These only show that whatever the decisions of the current administration right now are, they have been carefully done so that the people would benefit, not just a handful of those who pretend/ed to be against China or America but in reality have done nothing but present a political zarzuela at the expense of the Filipino people with all the future generations included as collateral.

The Lion Side in the Machiavellian Quote

Duterte is known to have a foul mouth. Having taught public speaking and speech writing for almost two decades now, I have often told students that the main reason why someone would use profanity in an interview is plain and simple: Leave me alone! Having worked in the media and having conducted interviews with politicians, my experience tells me that anyone who uses profanity during an interview just does not want to be interviewed.

Notice that the quote reads, “a lion to frighten wolves.” All the name-calling and invective Duterte does on international and local media do not add to the personal and crude smartphone videos commonly posted on Facebook about him crying over the death of a fallen soldier, rescuing an OFW from the hands of abusive employer(s) from the Middle East, or paying for the hospital bills of an accident survivor.

These combine the exact image of what Machiavelli wrote to be the blueprint of a great leader. The wolves (not foxes or dogs) represent the elite oligarchs and traditional corrupt politicians, cops, and military men in the nation. He wants to scare them by being the lion so that they will be afraid to continue their dreadful deeds. And so far, it has worked in his favor.

The Ratings Say It All

There have never been such numbers to describe the approval rating of a president than that of Duterte. In her January 12th, 2019 article in the Philstar Global site titled “Duterte ends 2018 with higher approval rating,” Helen Flores reports an uncontested 81 percent for December of last year. The breakdown shows the following: The President obtained the highest approval scores among respondents from his bailiwick Mindanao, at 96 percent and among class ABC and E, at 87 percent and 86 percent, respectively. Disapproval of the President’s work, meanwhile, dropped from 10 percent in September to seven percent in December.” Similar reports have been seen in other groups, such as Pulse Asia and the Social Weather Station.

With all these pointing in one direction, while the cacophony of the latest tirades continues to malign the President, the charade must go on. I fervently hope that he will not be interviewed more often about critical issues or at least someone must answer the questions instead, but a larger part of me believes the quiet and sincere man who would go to the battlefield, hospitals, and homes of those who need the attention most. This should have been the scoop of the day; the display of political wills, such as 8888, 911, and many more are supposed to be highlights of the Duterte Administration. I guess we will just have to wait and see then.


Flores, Helen. (2019). Duterte ends 2018 with higher approval rating. Web. N.p. Retrieved from

Machiavelli, Niccolo. (2019). The Prince Quotes. Web. N.p. Retrieved from

Mourdoukoutas, Panos. (2018). Duterte is Still Rising. Web. N.p. Retrieved from

© 2019 Professor S