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Who is Rodrigo Duterte?

  • VOA News

FILE - Rodrigo Duterte smiles during a news conference shortly after voting in a polling precinct at Daniel R. Aguinaldo National High School, Matina district, his hometown in Davao city in southern Philippines, May 9, 2016.

FILE - Rodrigo Duterte smiles during a news conference shortly after voting in a polling precinct at Daniel R. Aguinaldo National High School, Matina district, his hometown in Davao city in southern Philippines, May 9, 2016.

The next president of the Philippines won election by pledging to take the same tough stance on crime nationally as he has for two decades as mayor in the city of Davao.

Rodrigo Duterte's campaign website touts him as "tough talking and no nonsense, but with a soft spot for the poor, women and children." That is evident in his vow to crack down on crime in his first six months and his plan to reinstate the death penalty for those convicted of drug trafficking, rape and robbery. At the same time, he has also improved working conditions, provided free irrigation for farmers and expanded healthcare for the poor.

The 71-year-old's outspoken campaign, including boasting about his sexual escapades, has drawn parallels to U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump, who has uttered numerous derogatory remarks against women, immigrants and Muslims on his way to the Republican Party's nomination.

In a nation where 80 percent of people are Roman Catholic, Duterte called Pope Francis a "son of a bitch" after the pontiff's visit in January caused traffic problems. He also drew criticism from the U.S. and Australian ambassadors to the Philippines after saying he wished he had been first in line in the gang rape of an Australian missionary killed during a Davao jail riot in 1989.

Human Rights Watch has also linked Duterte to death squads in Davao that have killed more than 1,000 people during his 22 years as mayor.

"Duterte's boastful brand of violent impunity should be a path to prosecution, not a platform for political office," HRW Asia Division Deputy Director Phelim Kine wrote last year.

But, like Trump, Duterte used a populist approach to appeal to voters unhappy with corruption, crime and the gap between the country's rich and poor.

He has advocated multilateral negotiations to resolve territorial claims in the South China Sea. However in keeping with his bold campaign, Duterte also said if talks failed then he would ride a jet ski to one of the contested areas and plant his country's flag. If China objects to that, he says they can shoot him and let him die a national hero.

The president-elect's statements during the campaign drew criticism from his opponents who said his policies threatened law and order in the Philippines. Duterte's pledge to carry out his agenda even if that required shutting down the legislature also brought back memories of the country's late dictatorial President Ferdinand Marcos who declared martial law in 1972.

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