Austin Bay has some interesting thoughts on newly-elected President Duterte of the Philippines. Here's an excerpt.
Filipino voters knew about what happened during the two decades Duterte ran Davao City. Crime rates and Islamic terrorist activity declined considerably. By 2005 Islamic terrorists and other criminals usually avoided the place. Now Duterte is applying his aggressive approach to fighting crime on a nation-wide scale. Since July 1st the few active Islamic terror groups left and the many drug gangs are taking heavy losses and looking for ways to deal with this unprecedented threat. Abu Sayyaf and other ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) type Islamic terrorists always fight back (and lose) but the drug gangs and are expected to be more flexible. In Davao City such compromises seem to have been avoided and threats of increased violence against government leaders was also ineffective. But now there are a lot more enemies a reformer has to deal with.
Duterte has been dealing with assassination threats and other intimidation since the 1990s and apparently knows how to protect himself and his family. As president Duterte’s aggressive anti-crime approach has had immediate results for most Filipinos. Crime is down and it’s the criminals, not the average Filipino, who are now living in fear. That is enormously popular with most voters. Some local and many foreign critics consider these vigilante methods illegal, immoral and ineffective. That remains to be proven. In the meantime these methods have, since July 1st, left over 3,500 known or suspected drug gang members and addicts dead. Most were low level dealers but these are criminals the people see daily and hate the most. As a result a recent opinion poll found 91 percent of Filipinos approved of this new “shoot on sight” approach.
While Duterte encourages Filipinos to personally fight back against crime and corruption, this is also an enormous police operation. Since July 1st over a million homes and workplaces have been visited by police investigating crime. This has resulted in the surrender or capture of over 715,000 drug suspects. But 93 percent of these were drug users and the rest were either distributors (“pushers”) or low level supervisors of distribution. Duterte had said he could arrest nearly two million drug suspects by the end of the year and use information collected from interrogations and searches of so many suspects to identify and prosecute the people running the drug gangs and the corrupt police and politicians who traditionally protected the drug operations. That process has already begun and so far there have been nearly 19,000 police raids resulting in the apprehension of about 19,000 suspects (6 percent being killed in the process). Among the dead were at least 17 corrupt cops working for the drug gangs, sometimes quite openly. Several dozen more senior police and political officials have admitted to drug gang-related corruption and surrendered.
. . .
Duterte is responding to the widespread feeling that some kind of radical solution is needed. Duterte apparently realizes that he has a short period of time to make some fundamental changes before public enthusiasm wanes and his powerful opponents (major drug gangs and corrupt senior politicians and bureaucrats) get organized. What worked in Davao City may not work on a national scale and that won’t be obvious until late 2017.
There's more at the link.
I can't help thinking that President Duterte's approach seems to have more than a little in common with Donald Trump's election campaign in the USA. Mr. Trump is making the same populist appeal to American voters, and it seems to be having an effect. From calling for not just an end to, but a reversal of the influx of illegal aliens, to emphasizing law and order, to cutting out bloated, inefficient government departments, Mr. Trump is appealing to a great many voters. They can see for themselves the problems he's identified, and they know the present system is doing little or nothing to fix them.
I doubt whether Mr. Trump would issue a "Get them all!" call for vigilante justice and violence against criminals, as President Duterte has done. Nevertheless, after many years in the Third World, I can understand the visceral appeal of such tactics. Sure, a lot of innocent people get hurt when they're applied; but the problems also get addressed, and frequently reduced to a level of minor background noise rather than a foreground clamor. A lot of people are willing to tolerate infringements on their own privacy and security in order to accomplish that.
That, of course, is the frightening thing for those of us who take the constitution seriously. We place a great deal of emphasis on the Bill of Rights. In order for populist approaches to succeed, at least some of those rights will inevitably be honored more in the breach than in the observance. Mr. Trump's recent call for increased New York City-style 'stop-and-frisk' tactics are a good example of that. So much for the Fourth Amendment! Nevertheless, popular support for efforts to reduce crime may well support such measures; and the Peelian Principles of law enforcement may go out of the window in the process. It's going to be a conundrum for many of us.
I think events in the Philippines will bear watching . . . as they will in this country as well.