Duterte, the Iconoclast

 "A person who attacks settled beliefs or institutions."

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines the word iconoclast as "a person who attacks settled beliefs or institutions." The reactions to iconoclasts, especially those making their mark in politics, vary per country and person. The dictionary meaning of the term very much describes President Rodrigo "Digong" Duterte.

Digong is far from being conventional. As the first person from Mindanao to be elected President, he exudes an aura of being the tough talking action man, with the success of Davao City, the place where he served as mayor for more than 20 years prior to becoming the Chief Executive, as proof. As an outsider from the traditional Manila-based political elite, he addresses and identifies with his constituents, using curse words and joking around when needed and even wears normal working class clothes.

He approaches national leadership almost in the same manner that he dealt with the concerns of his constituents as mayor of Davao City. He is tough on crime, especially against drug syndicates, and corruption, while, at the same time, projects a fatherly aura to soldiers and policemen performing their duty, and to the citizenry whom he swore to protect and defend. While being unrelenting to those perpetrating crime and corruption, he intelligently balances the interests of the nation, from re-calibrating the country's foreign policy that was heavily pegged to the United States for a long time, to ensuring that prosperity will be felt by the majority through a careful mix of policy and economic reforms.

He is also not afraid to openly criticize and sometimes berate members of the old political establishment, the local Roman Catholic Church, the United States and the European Union- a far cry from the seemingly "see no evil, hear no evil and speak no evil" approach of traditional Filipino politicos.

Duterte and his leadership style elicited a mix of reactions. He earned criticism from his local and foreign adversaries, accusing him of being a mad man who condone murder and promote a culture of lawlessness. However, the criticisms have been drowned by him enjoying high trust and approval ratings from the majority since his first day in office, which is an indication that his unconventional and iconoclastic methods, demeanor and leadership style are being perceived positively.

Thirty years since Ferdinand Marcos was replaced by Corazon Aquino as President, Filipinos heard nothing but flowery words and promising speeches from the traditional political establishment. Changes were barely seen and felt; and claims of economic growth and prosperity, and peace and order barely reached the grassroots. These were the catalysts for the people to ask the initially reluctant Duterte to seek higher office and them to vote the tough-talking long-time mayor as the next leader of the Philippines.

For now, the Filipino masses see in iconoclasts like Duterte a flicker of hope that has been denied to them for more than 30 years by the traditional ruling class. A man of a few words and more of action, Digong was and will still be able to slowly but surely prove himself through his unconventional methods, especially ridding the streets of drug-using criminals who prey on the hardworking masses, and assuring that both economic growth and development will be realized through investment in infrastructure and economic reforms. It is clear that the masses will always be on the side of the iconoclast Duterte, although they seem to be wary of the antics not only of the moves of the political establishment that was removed from power but also of the true intentions of those who pose as his allies.


Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of TheLOBBYiST.
About the Author
Benedict is an agricultural economist, academician and writer. He has gained experience and expertise in various fields of economics, business, political science and public relations after through professional ventures in the academe, and in the public and private sectors. He has authored or co-authored key publications on topics ranging from agriculture and food security to global affairs and politics.
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