The modern history of the Philippines suffered from colonial power like China did but as a small country the Philippines was fully occupied by the Spanish in the 19th century. China as a big nation, although maintained independence, was victimized by the invasion of seven Western nations and the Imperial Japan. In 1897, a 28 year old Emilio Aguinaldo started a revolution in the Philippines against the Spanish rule but failed and exiled to Hong Kong. In April 1898, the Spanish-American war broke out, the U.S. won the war and settled with Spain by the Paris Treaty which allowed the U.S. to annex the Philippines as the U.S. territory (The treaty was ratified by the U.S. Senate on 2/6/1899). Aguinaldo returned to the Philippines and tried to gain independence by convening an assembly and drew up a constitution but his effort faced the resistance of the U.S. resulting in a guerrilla war against the U.S. On March 23, 1901, Aguinaldo was tricked and captured by the U.S. troops, a size of 65000. Aguinaldo pleaded allegiance to the U.S. but the rebels fought on. In the end, after the infamous Massacre of Samar, retaliation to the insurrection, the U.S. General Jacob Smith directed the Samar Island Massacre by killing all men above 10 years old. Although Jacob Smith was court-martialed and forced to retire but the U.S. took over the administration of the Philippines in 1902. The U.S. rule lasted till 1935 when she approved “the common wealth of the Philippines” and finally granted the real full independence to the Philippines on 7/4/1946 after the end of WW II. In 1962, Philippines changed her National Day from July 4th to June 12th commemorating the Philippine Declaration of Independence from Spain on June 12, 1898.
The Republic of Philippines has a democratic government having three interdependent branches, the legislative, the executive and the judicial; a system similar to that of the U.S. Corruption has been a pervasive, long-standing problem in the Philippine government. (Philippine improved her ranking in Transparency International Corruption Perception Index from 105 to 94 in 2013) President Ferdinan Marcos and his wife Imelda (1972-1986) practiced corruption on a grand scale. Former President Joseph Estrada was impeached for corruption in 2000 and convicted on 9-12-2007. Former President Gloria Arroyo was impeached several times since 2006 for electoral fraud and other political crimes and on October 5, 2007, she was impeached for corruption (Arroyo pardoned Estrada on 10-25-2007). President Benigno Aquino won the presidency in 2010 on a good government platform to combat corruption. During 2010, the government convicted 42 officials in 125 corruption cases including House Representative and university president. The public perceived serious corruption in the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the nation’s prison system. The Philippines Presidential Election in 2016 was hard fought but Duterte won in a decisive vote of 16.6M, 6.6M more than his closest rival, former Interior Secretary Mar Roxas, backed by Aquino. This landslide margin certainly cemented Duterte’s leadership for a six-year term of Presidency.
Rodrigo Duterte came from a political family with father Vincente Duterte served as the Mayor of Davao, Ceba and governor of Davao Province and mother Soledad Roa served as a civil leader. He was first appointed Vice Mayor of Davao City in 1986 at age 0f 41. He served to term limit till 1998 then ran for Congressman of the 1st district of Davao Coty. In 2001, he ran for Mayor again and got elected, then in 2004 and 2007, served a total of seven terms (service of 22 years). Duterte was urged to run for the Philippine presidency numerous times and offered job as the Secretary of Interior four times but he rejected them. He was reluctant to run for Presidency in 2015 considering his age (71 if elected) but eventually he formally signed election filing on 12/8/2015. He is known for his straight forward and tough languages in his speeches; hence, Duterte has been compared to Trump, the US presumptive Republican Presidential Nominee on anti-media and rough language. Apparently, the Filipino voters loved his ‘Trump like character’; one wonders whether the majority of American voters in November would likewise vote for Trump.
Duterte is a unique public servant who not only has made a number of significant achievements but also has demonstrated his strong ‘righteous’ character and conservative philosophy with little concern of ‘political correctness’ similar to Trump’s behavior. He is especially known for his stance against drug crime and earned a nickname, “the punisher”, for taking tough actions against drug dealers. He is also a strong human rights fighter for minorities as well as philanthropic in his deeds of opening drug rehab clinics and offering P1200/month to addicts to kick the habit as well as offering aids to typhoon and earthquake victims in Philippines. He has won international awards for his mayoral administration running a large urban city. He has reduced Davao City crime rate drastically and established the first free call 9-1-1 in his city. Through executive orders, he imposed comprehensive anti-smoking ordinance, ordered all shopping Malls and commercial centers to install high-end closed circuit TV at all entrances and exits. Duterte has passed the city’s Women Development Code to uphold the rights and dignity of women, the first and only code in the Philippines.
On the inauguration day, Duterte convened his first cabinet meeting, enacting a number of initiatives: establishing a 24-hour complaint office, De-congesting Aquino international airport, eliminating airport privileged treatment for cabinet members, studying healthcare models (Cuba system), stopping online gambling and evaluating the implication of arbitration court ruling regarding the SCS dispute with China. After the inauguration in a press meeting, Duterte expressed his desire of a “soft landing” on the SCS issue, a most constructive official statement on the Sino-Philippine SCS Dispute from the Philippines. As we observe the current developments in the SCS, it is clear that the SCS tension has been artificially raised under the banner of “Freedom of Navigation”. In reality, there was no navigation problem, no pirate activities nor shipping incidences. Over half of the world commerce (China, Japan, South Korea, India, Singapore, etc) transport their goods through South and East China Sea without accidents or navigation problems. Why can’t any SCS dispute be resolved through bi-lateral negotiations? China has denied the arbitration court’s jurisdiction on the Sino-Philippine SCS dispute. A friendly Sino-Philippine relation is definitely beneficial to both countries, since each is treating reform and fighting corruption as top priority while maintaining a healthy economic growth. President Duterte as a mandated new leader has an excellent opportunity to navigate the SCS issue into a “soft landing” so that both countries can focus on their own domestic issues. We wish him success.