Do Filipinos need iron-fisted leadership?

Filipinos do not know what they want. In 1986, hundreds of thousands of Filipinos took to the streets to rally against the late strongman, former President Ferdinand Marcos. The three-day protest eventually led to the ousting of the so-called “dictator” and alleged human rights violator. Twenty five years later, Filipinos from the Mindanao region of Davao are lauding the Duterte family for their style of leadership that is reminiscent of the Marcos years. They love the Duterte Mayors particularly former Mayor who is now the Vice Mayor to his daughter Sara, gun-toting Rodrigo for their Wild-West-style no-nonsense leadership.

Most Filipinos from Davao or the Davaoeños are quite aware of the hired mercenaries — what they dub the “Davao Death Squads” (DDS) — and are even proud to say that the phantom team is largely responsible for keeping the peace and the order in their beloved city. They say that since the people cannot rely on the justice system, these death squads at least keep the criminals off the streets, which in turn makes it safer for regular people to walk about. Full disclosure: these are all based on anecdotal statements and not on an official study.

Most vocal Davaoeños would readily admit that the improvised system works for them. One commentator even asked the question, “If an iron-fisted Machiavellian approach is preferable to enforce peace & order, are you saying that [we were] better off not having the Edsa revolution in the first place?” Indeed, ruling Filipinos with an iron fist seems more effective than the softly-softly approach that has been used since Marcos left. I even received a lot of hostility from Duterte supporters for my article criticizing Mayor Sara’s use of violence to get her way. So, I thought, hmmm…there must be something that people from other regions in the Philippines are missing

The evidence, in fact, seems to speaks for itself. The Department of Tourism awarded Davao the distinction of being the “Most Livable City in the Philippines in 2008” and, according to reports, the Foreign Direct Investment Magazine had even highlighted Davao as “the 10th Asian City of the Future”. The importance of Davao as a regional trade hub is highlighted by its transport infrastructure. Davao’s airport is the busiest in Mindanao, and the city also boasts two government and nine private seaports. Construction of more roads and bridges is underway according to their website. Now that is something to think about.

As the fifth largest city in the Philippines, Davao’s economy has grown steadily in the last two decades. There is no shortage of investors in the city of 1.5 million and most people there attribute all this to the efforts of their beloved mayor whose efforts at cleaning up the city and introducing economic reforms, which include dismantling of protection for “infant industries” and the breakdown of industries with monopolistic or cartel tendencies, seem to have paid off. It’s been said that Davao contributed significantly to making the Philippines the world’s top exporter of papaya, mangosteen, and even flowers. The annual income of Davao City in 2010 is said to have reached 4 billion pesos, the richest city in the country outside of Metro Manila.

Should we clone Duterte?

So I now wonder: wouldn’t the rest of the Philippines be better off electing Rodrigo Duterte clones to their respective local governments to effect the same level of discipline we see in Davao? Just imagine if the image and likeness of “the man” together with his brand of “leadership” is put in place in every city in the country. The result might see the entire country being more than eligible for “The Most Livable Place on Earth” award. That scenario would be just short of amazing.

I guess all that is needed is for us to turn a blind eye to the activities of the hired mercenaries, which if the rumor is true, goes hand in hand with a Duterte-styled management. And if one commentator (an avid Duterte supporter) is correct, for as long as you are not a drug pusher or do not engage in criminal activities, you can be assured that you won’t get any visits from any “death squad” any time soon. In short, if we take the word of a Davaoeño who has for some time enjoyed relative peace and order, it’s all good. Apparently, even the human rights advocates have not been very vocal about their complaints either.

Who wouldn’t want a curfew on minors observed in the city? Under the Duterte rule, all business establishments, in particular bars and discos, would be mandated by a city ordinance to refrain from selling alcoholic drinks beyond 2:00 am. That would certainly reduce the number of casualties that result from public brawls and drink driving accidents.

The roads would be a lot safer too because motorists will be forced to observe road rules and regulations. Regular checkpoints in key parts of City and at the city boundaries will be in place round the clock to ensure strict implementation of traffic rules. And just like in Davao, motorcycle drivers with no helmets and motorists with defective lights will not be allowed to enter or drive in any city in Luzon and the Visayas.

The use of fireworks and other pyrotechnics, as well as smoking, would be strictly prohibited in the entire country. We will have more people with complete sets of fingers if illegal fireworks traditionally lit on New Year’s Eve are banned. Smoking will be banned too — even outdoors, if you are under a roof of any kind. Violators will be made to pay hefty fines, perform community service, serve jail time, or a combination of the three. President Noynoy Aquino will most likely be forced to quit smoking. And while we are at it, we can extend similar penalties to people who love singing in the wee hours of the morning.

But this will be the most shocking rule for all Filipinos in Luzon and Visayas: Littering would be prohibited. I don’t know how Filipinos would be able to adjust to this. The death squad will be likely to have their hands full implementing this rule alone considering how most Filipinos can’t seem to kick their tossing habit. There will definitely be a mother of a withdrawal period as Filipinos quit cold turkey throwing their trash wherever they please.

Just think about it. For almost three decades, Filipinos have enjoyed their so-called freedom to lay waste over the entire country. Isn’t it time that someone with an iron fist instill discipline on all of us? Or are individual rights and civil liberties more important than a clean and safe environment? You decide what you want.


Post Author: Ilda

In life, things are not always what they seem.

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101 Comments on "Do Filipinos need iron-fisted leadership?"

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The bottom line was never about Freedom. It was always about prosperity. If the leader no matter how authoritarian or iron fisted is able to deliver on peace and prosperity to the most number of people, people really do learn to turn a blind eye to things like… say… freedom of speech and expression… even the right to assemble… Another case of which comes to mind is Singapore and Lee Kwan Yew.


Did Marcos punch someone in front of the media? Is he that arrogant to throw tantrums publicly? Would he ever say that he doesn’t care to be disbarred?

Chong Maryo Jeddah
While it is true that a lot of things reached its peak (excellent economic activity and acceptable peace & order atmosphere)during the Marcos-era, Filipinos just can’t tolerate iron-fisted style of leadership, otherwise risk to be toppled-down from power. I hope that a time will come when majority of us Filipinos will become ‘matured’ voters. Look at the current outcome of our country which has been managed by all those leaders that were elected by the unmatured ‘masses’ – pitiful indeed… We need to educate the masses that the best way to steer the country to prosperity is to vote a… Read more »
Joe America

Nice article. The lack of an efficient, fair judiciary is a core problem, for sure, suggesting an iron fist would be better, if his/her values were for the community instead of self. I still say flipping the bird at the media is too much like Ampatuan for my liking, and maybe the good Mayor could be a marvelous leader if he racheted down his hostility about 1,500 notches. Thin skin and power do not good bedfellows make, I fear.


Here’s a thought: It’s pretty hard to ignore obvious positive results in that city under the Duterte regime. But for all the “law and order” talk, how is it that squatters, who are after all ILLEGALLY occupying someone else’s property, were overlooked until the situation came to a violent head?

Odd sort of selective application of authoritarianism, if you ask me.

Dr. Noh

If there’s one thing we learned out of all this:

If you want to bring back capital punishment in the Philippines, you make Davao your launchpad when campaigning… what with the over-all tolerance-slash-support of the Davao people for their beloved Death Squads, and the results it gets.


Looks like a lot of bozos here don’t like people making summary judgments about their beloved Duterte dynasty. But then that illustrates a funny irony, because people like the Dutertes are precisely the sort of people who are in the business of ROUTINELY making summary judgments on people and acting upon said judgment. Of course, Pinoys aren’t exactly the sort of folk who catch their fair share of the many ironies that routinely sail over their pointed heads. 😀

Hyden Toro

Adolf Hitler of Nazi Germany, had turned around the German economy, during his early reign…He built “autobhans” (Superhighways). Hosted the 1936 Berlin Olympics, showing to the whole world, the Nazi regime’s accomplishments…There was the SS Nazi Death Head, Death Squads, to enforce law and order…and the will of the Nazi Party…
Iron-fisted leadership, can go in a wrong turn, like Germany, Italy…and even,Militaristic Japan, had experienced in World War II. The ordinary people, had no recourse, but to: “Howl with the Wolves…” Oppositions were deciminated, on the reason of Law and Order, or progress…

Ferdie Villanueva
Yes, I believe so. We are traditionally a paternal society where the father is respected as head of the family. His word is authority and unquestionably final. Our basic government unit is the Barangay which is historically a social unit composed of more or less 200 families all related by blood and headed by a Datu. The Datu acts as the Head of the Barangay, and as a Father to all the families, his word is authority and respected by all. Looking at the Filipino today, specially the youth, to them the meaning of authority is “restriction” and their concept… Read more »

Is Marikina run by an iron-fisted mayor? Las Pinas?
Or it is just a matter of political will.

I believe it is the innate and inherited Asian identity that is emerging from us that we still end up appreciating a more iron-fisted form of governance as compared to a soft one. Is it that most of us still converge to setting American hegemony on democracy and anti-authoritarianism/communism aside to the backwaters of our minds? Don’t you think so? Even I myself and other people whom I’ve asked prefer the idea of a Singapore-style governance or similar to that of the Davao Duterte father-daughter tandem’s. Even after deposing dictators, Koreans do strongly admit and appreciate how their previous leaders… Read more »

Parang napapansin ko na rin. Simpleng batas like jaywalking, no-smoking area may naninigarilyo. no parking pero may Crosswind may wang2 pa, andaming basura naitapon sa ilog, etc. spoiled na ba talaga ang pinoy sa sobrang kalayaan?

Germi Cruz Sison
Richard Gordon was a disciplinarian Mayor of Olongapo City and though he raised his voice for grave mistake he maintained his civility and never laid his hand to wrong-doers. The fear of many that Olongapo would sink unto the gutter after the pull-out of US military installations and the devastating Mt. Pinatubo eruption was proven otherwise, as he led Olongapo as a peaceful and prosperous city in western Luzon. Other known disciplinarian city mayors in the Philippines are the late Arsenio H. Lacson, Cesar Climaco and Edward Hagedorn who maintained their bearing even in time of extreme odds. I wonder… Read more »
Like many Dabawenyos I don’t agree with Duterte’s style but I have to hand it to the guy for making Davao the way it is now: safe, progressive and very liveable. My childhood saw the peaceful city of the 50’s and 60’s destroyed in the 70’s and 80’s by violence and lawlessness from NPAs, Muslim secessionists and plain criminals. Businesses died and people got poorer and more displaced. I went to Manila for college and it always pained me to go home on vacation to see infrastructures decay, hear friends talk about the killings, and have my parents install heavy-duty… Read more »

The way I see it, Strictness is what most parents would use as a medicine in order to treat children of their undesired behavior.

Perhaps, only those children who are proved to be capable of behaving themselves are the only ones who truly deserves to be free from the strictness their parents enforce.

But be wary, strictness should just be a temporal means to address behavioral problems.

Children must truly understand why such strictness is being enforced. Because if not, who would hold their leash if the parents are not living anymore?

Cities and Municipalities like Subic, Cebu, Marikina, Davao etc. are good examples of good local governance and they are good reasons why we must give more autonomy to local governments to chart their own path. Centralized national government, whether under a dictatorship or a willy nilly leadership always have drastic negative results because all money went up to the top, causing massive corruption and misery. So the real issue here is not the Dirty Harry style of Duterte family (Honestly, I have a crush on Sarah. Tough but lovely lady :D) The real issue is to gove local governments and… Read more »
Leo Vicente Villa

Institutions of the EDSA-spawned democracy are still highly prone to subversion.

Highly personalized caudilism like what the Dutertes have and the Marcoses had in place work as well as the person in power. Furthermore, there appears to be a lack of an effective check and balance that keeps them in line and improve the quality of governance.


[…] a pilot site — a community that unashamedly and proudly lives by such a two-point creed: the Davao City of the Duterte Clan, where results rather than reform rhetoric speak loudly: There is no shortage of investors in the […]

Santiago Vargas

Bongbong Marcos for president 2016!

This nation will be great again!


Wodrenful explanation of facts available here.