Voters in the Philippines appear posed to elect Rodrigo Duterte as their their next president. Duterte, the outspoken and controversial mayor of Davao City, would succeed current president Benigno S. Aquino III.
Often referred to as the Filipino Donald Trump, Duterte shares much in common with the presumptive GOP presidential nominee—he's brash, outspoken, and oftentimes shockingly offensive. Duterte (or "Digong" as he's often known in his home country") made a name for himself as a tough-on-crime authoritarian during his mayoral tenure. But for all the similarities between Digong and The Donald, the Filipino politician is, in many ways, a wholly unique political character as well.
Here's what you need to know about Rodrigo "Digong" Duterte.
He's been a fixture in Filipino politics for decades
Duterte first served as vice mayor of Davao City starting in 1986. He was elected mayor two years later, and served for a decade, until term limit laws forced him to run as a congressman. Following that role, he served several more years as Davao City mayor in the early 2000s, and in 2010 was elected vice mayor once again, serving under Inday Sara Duterte—his daughter.
He comes from a political family
His father, Vicente G. Duterte, served as both a mayor on the Philippines' island of Cebu, as well as a provincial governor of Davao province, prior to its division into smaller territories in the late 1960s. His cousin, Ronald Duterte, and Ronald's father Ramon, both reportedly served as mayors of Cebu City, as well.
He claims to have shot a classmate while in law school
Duterte has a fearsome reputation as a no-holds-barred authoritarian when it comes to fighting crime (more on that later) but as a young man, Digong himself was known raising his fair share of hell. During a recent political rally for his presidential bid, Duterte regaled onlookers with a story of his having shot a fellow law student while enrolled at San Beda University. According to Duterte, the student in question would frequently bully him over his Bisaya heritage, until finally the future-President had had enough. Per Rappler.com, Duterte told the crowd:
"We were about to graduate, I was watching him, I said, 'This guy has a bone to pick with me. Before we went our separate ways, he, a bully would go 'Hoy, hoy hoy,' as he entered the corridor. I told him, 'son of a bitch if that hits me, I will shoot you. Son of a bitch, it hit me on the nose. Ahhh, bang! Expelled."
The bully was not fatally injured, and Duterte, despite his expulsion, was reportedly allowed to graduate.
He has zero tolerance for crime
As the above anecdote suggests, Duterte is not shy about violence, both in his personal life, and later, his political one as well. As mayor of Davao city, Duterte was given the nickname "The Punisher" for his no-compromise attitude on crime, having sported a .38 pistol during a sit-down with a Time magazine reporter. He once allegedly offered a bounty of over $100,000 for the decapitated head of a local crime boss, and once described himself as "100 per cent terrorist, but I am terrorizing only the drug pushers, kidnappers, holdup gangs, and other criminals."
In fact, rather than soften his image for this year's Presidential campaign, Duterte leaned into his "Punisher" persona, making it one of his signature campaign features and reportedly telling a crowd during a recent rally in Manilla:
"All of you who are into drugs, you sons of bitches, I will really kill you. I have no patience, I have no middle ground, either you kill me or I will kill you idiots."
He may be linked with a notorious local death squad
During his tenure as mayor of Davao City, Duterte has been dogged by accusations of connections with the feared DDS—the Davao Death Squads. This vigilante group has been accused by Human Rights Watch of hundreds of extrajudicial killings, with many of their victims being petty criminals and drug dealers. Their activities in the late 1990s through the 2000s coincided with much of Duterte's tough-on-crime talk. A 2009 HRW article, announcing the publication of the organization's report on the killings, explains:
The longtime mayor of Davao City, Rodrigo Duterte, has made numerous statements attempting to justify the killing of suspected criminals, believing that such killings have a deterrent effect on crime and have made the city a safer place. But according to statistics provided by the Philippines National Police, the number of annual crime incidents has increased some 219 percent in the last decade, while the city's population rose only by 29 percent. An increasing number of death squad killings appear to have made crime rates worse in Davao.
While Duterte has never been directly linked to the squad itself, critics contend that his history of tough talk, coupled with inaction when it came to bringing the death squads to justice, may have tacitly—or even explicitly—encouraged the DDS' actions.
Despite his violent reputation, he's often been an effective mayor
In 2001, Duterte allocated 12 million dollars to repair and maintain the Davao City Treatment and Rehabilitation Center for Drug Dependents. That center had reportedly been the responsible of the Department of Social Welfare and Development, but has since become fully funded by the city itself. Duterte also allocated funds to provide recovering addicts a small monthly stipend during their treatment.
Duterte is also credited with being the first mayor to enact a number of policies designed to involve and elevate Davao City's Muslim and indigenous Lumad communities.
He's in favor of LGBT rights
During an appearance on the Philippines' Gandang Gabi Vice show last year, Duterte came out in favor of same-sex marriage, reportedly saying it was "good..everyone deserves to be happy." When asked about homosexuality more broadly, he replied that everyone deserves "respect" and "human dignity, because all humans are created by God."
Watch him whip, watch him nae nae
During the same taping, Duterte also showed off his fancy dance moves.
He says wildly inappropriate things
In addition to his repeated calls for, and justification of violent tactics to fight crime, Duterte has also made jokes about a 1989 gang rape victim, and once called the Pope Francis a "son of a whore," for having caused traffic problems with during the Pontiff's visit last year.
The current Filipino President is not a fan
In the final days leading up to the election, President Benigno Aquino spoke at a rally for candidate Mar Roxas, who belongs to the president's own Liberal Party. Regarding Duterte, Aquino told the crowd: "I hope we learn the lessons of history. We should remember how Hitler came to power."