The Duterte Derangement Syndrome


So Presidential front runner, Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, has been taking some heat lately from different angles. This past weekend he was skewered left and right from his critics for a ‘sexist’ remark he uttered back in 1989. Today I noticed at least a couple of newspapers show articles that highlight a psychiatric report used for his marriage annulment case in the early 2000s. The Daily Tribune’s lengthy article highlights the Mayor having an “Anti-Social Narcissistic Disorder”. Critics have suggested that Duterte’s “mental case” indicates that the Mayor is unfit for the Presidency. I say these critics, who suffer from what I call the “Duterte Derangement Syndrome”, need to take a pause and re-think their glorification of psychiatric assessments that support their agenda.

Dr. Allen Frances, professor emeritus at Duke University and former chairman of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) IV task force said in his Huffington Post article that:

“Mental illness” is terribly misleading because the “mental disorders” we diagnose are no more than descriptions of what clinicians observe people do or say, not at all well established diseases. For example, the term “schizophrenia” just describes a heterogeneous set of experiences and behaviors; it doesn’t at all explain them and eventually there will be hundreds of different causes and dozens of different treatments.

The “mental illness” term also lends itself to a simple-minded biological reductionism that pays insufficient attention to the psychological and social factors that are crucial in understanding anyone’s problems. Everyone complains about “mental illness,” but nobody has come up with a better substitute.

If we really think about it, what do mental disorders really mean? The dictionary’s medical scope seems to define a disorder as “a physical or mental condition that is not normal”. But is there really an objective definition of ‘normal’? If one acts or thinks outside of a population’s average ways, does that necessarily make the person ‘abnormal’? Does it mean he or she is necessarily suffering from a ‘disorder’? What, then, is the point of pontificating the importance of using our intellect and assessing platforms of governance in choosing our country’s future leaders during elections if the majority of the electorate chooses candidates based on personality and popularity, not on substance?

So how do we differentiate a ‘disorder’ from, say, a disease or an illness? Psychotherapist Gary Greenberg said:

The difference between disease and disorder is an attempt on the part of psychiatry to evade the problem they’re presented with. Disease is a kind of suffering that’s caused by a bio-chemical pathology. Something that can be discovered and targeted with magic bullets. But in many cases our suffering can’t be diagnosed that way. Psychiatry was in a crisis in the 1970s over questions like “what is a mental illness?” and “what mental illnesses exist?” One of the first things they did was try to finesse the problem that no mental illness met that definition of a disease. They had yet to identify what the pathogen was, what the disease process consisted of, and how to cure it. So they created a category called “disorder.” It’s a rhetorical device. It’s saying “it’s sort of like a disease,” but not calling it a disease because all the other doctors will jump down their throats asking, “where’s your blood test?” The reason there haven’t been any sensible findings tying genetics or any kind of molecular biology to DSM categories is not only that our instruments are crude, but also that the DSM categories aren’t real. It’s like using a map of the moon to find your way around Russia.

To stress Greenberg’s point, let us think about what causes depression. In a lot of cases, people suffering from depression go to their doctors, say they are depressed, then get told to pop pills like Prozac. The usual assumption is that the patient is suffering from a chemical imbalance and a magic pill like Prozac would make things peachy. Does this really hold water? The Harvard Medical School doesn’t seem to think so. In one of its published articles, it said:

It’s often said that depression results from a chemical imbalance, but that figure of speech doesn’t capture how complex the disease is. Research suggests that depression doesn’t spring from simply having too much or too little of certain brain chemicals. Rather, depression has many possible causes, including faulty mood regulation by the brain, genetic vulnerability, stressful life events, medications, and medical problems. It’s believed that several of these forces interact to bring on depression.

To be sure, chemicals are involved in this process, but it is not a simple matter of one chemical being too low and another too high. Rather, many chemicals are involved, working both inside and outside nerve cells. There are millions, even billions, of chemical reactions that make up the dynamic system that is responsible for your mood, perceptions, and how you experience life.

With this level of complexity, you can see how two people might have similar symptoms of depression, but the problem on the inside, and therefore what treatments will work best, may be entirely different.

Researchers have learned much about the biology of depression. They’ve identified genes that make individuals more vulnerable to low moods and influence how an individual responds to drug therapy. One day, these discoveries should lead to better, more individualized treatment (see “From the lab to your medicine cabinet”), but that is likely to be years away. And while researchers know more now than ever before about how the brain regulates mood, their understanding of the biology of depression is far from complete.

As the Harvard article suggests, conditions such as depression, are complex and it is a mistake to succumb to a reductionist mentality by defining the cause of observed conditions to singular and simplistic explanations. Another aspect that this reductionist mentality seems to eliminate is the moral ramification. Unfortunately, diagnoses of mental disorders or illnesses are stigmatized negatively (even sometimes ‘evil’). As Greenberg pointed out:

It can also have bad effects. A depression diagnosis gives people an identity formed around having a disease that we know doesn’t exist, and how that can divert resources from where they might be needed. Imagine how much less depression there would be if people weren’t worried about tuition, health care, and retirement. Those are all things that aren’t provided by Prozac.

More to that point, imagine if a person diagnosed to have a depression were ostracized or discriminated against because of the stigma associated with the condition? He or she may be suspected of being prone to suicide or that he may one day show up with a loaded gun and start a mass killing. Imagine how this would affect a person’s well-being and even livelihood? Isn’t this what Duterte critics are doing as they seem to be correlating his crass and sexist remarks with his potential for abuse of power once elected? They even named their gathering yesterday at a press conference as “Abusado sa Kababaihan, Abusado sa Kapangyarihan” (Trans. “Abuse on Women, Abuse in Power”). Never mind that Duterte actually has the best record for championing women’s rights among the presidential candidates running, to his critics Duterte’s ‘sexist’ remark makes him the devil incarnate. Besides, since when has correlation meant causation? Look, the US population is predominantly white and it also has a high crime rate. Using the logic of their subtle smear at Duterte that his “abuse on women” would mean he will be abusive once he becomes President, does this mean that “whiteness” causes crime? Impeccable logic! The psychiatric report being peddled by Duterte critics is really nothing but a worthless scrap to bolster the propaganda that Duterte is unfit to be the country’s leader. Inday Sara Duterte-Carpio (daughter of Mayor Duterte) is correct to say that:

“Psychological incapacitation in a marriage does not reflect the character of a person outside the marriage … He’s impulsive? He’s selfish? Does his track record in governance, as a public servant, show that he is impulsive or selfish? They do not … The court may have used these as grounds for the annulment of the marriage, but the court did not say that he is unfit to become a leader. The court said my parents are unfit to be together in a marriage, but it did not say that my father is unfit to become our leader”

take_a_chill_pill_mugAt the end of the day, the argument by Duterte critics using the psychiatric report as basis for their contention that Duterte is unfit for the Presidency is really just plain propaganda. The psychiatric report itself is really just a scrap of paper, a product of an armchair entertainment and not by real science. Perhaps these rabid Duterte critics, the dime-a-dozen political hacks who suffer from the “Duterte Derangement Syndrome”, just need to take a Prozac or a ‘chill pill’ as we approach the elections.

(Image taken from


Post Author: Hector Gamboa

Calling a spade, a spade...

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17 Comments on "The Duterte Derangement Syndrome"

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D. Makapaniwala

Freedom of speech and expression can not be denied to DU30. To tell the Australian and US embassy officials to shut up may be his style of practicing when he eventually becomes the president in June 30, 2016.

If he can tell Xi Jinping to shut up too and still get away with it, undoubtedly he will be the greatest Philippine president, if ever.😊

junie bong

since the people he told to shutup are the #1 OFW remit at 9 billion a year, he pretty much makes a fool of himself. dds belongs in a village with his guns not as president. last thing we need to do is scare away multinational companies with his “death sqauds in manila”… get real phils….

You just look at Benigno Aquino III, and see an example of a person with “Mental Illness”…Yet, he is serving as a President. His behaviors show valid symptoms of a Mentally Ill person. He has: paranoia; personality disorder; obssesive compulsive disorder; amorality; etc… I know he is taking medications, to function as a human being. His demeanor shows them. Looking for Universities in Europe and America, and pandering to award him, a Honorary PhD. What does that show? That he thinks, himself as a “great leader”? Anyway, he got one at Fordham University. Aquino was nowhere to be seen ,… Read more »

Anti social narcisistic disorder syndrome is not a mental illness. It is a personality disorder.

If Duterte has it; Noynoy Aquino has it more.
Noynoy Aquino and Kris Aquino are both suffering from Massive Depression. Kris Aquino is a sexual addict. She goes from one man to another man, for sexual gratification. Sexual promiscuousness is one of the symptoms of a Depression. Kris Aquino’s behaviors, also shows , she is definitely suffering from Depression.

“Don’t bite the hand that feeds” , another one let us all be atheist and reject religion in our country if we will support duterte’s vigilante ways. When he mentioned in one interview that his mouth is a god given mouth, gah! Using the name of God, do you know that one of the apostle of god was a murderer before he became an apostle, isnt that giving second chance to the worst criminal, and what is duterte doing by the way, killing criminals denying the chance to change their ways. So please dont drag the name of God, because… Read more »

For me, the psych report just confirms what I have observed in him long ago: He is impatient and inconsistent. These are dangerous qualities when holding a very powerful government office. Sincerity counts, but that’s not the only quality we look for when we hire someone to do a very complicated task.


Failipinos in the Failippines believe in a long, prolonged, derangement of their stupid mediocre senses in order to obtain the so-called unknown.


Our Psy prof once said, nobody is 100% normal. Not all the time at least. Our normalcy is affected by many different factors surrounding us as well as the degree of such factors (especially if grave). But normalcy can also be questioned as each individual are unique. At most part, if it’s universal, it is taken as normal. And if you’re not part of that universality, you’re seen as either crazy or a genius.

vagoneto rieles
The author relies heavily on findings, (opinions) of a couple of psychiatrists…Drs. Frances and Greenberg… to debunk the findings of the psychiatrists who earlier had adjudged Mr. Duterte as having an ”antisocial, narcissistic’ behavior”. To introduce doubt into certain clinical findings is par for the course in arguing against most prognoses… certainly, well-advised; as, do we not opt for a second opinion in most such cases? The author then settles on the fact that, indeed, the jury is still out on the matter of whether mental cases are ‘disorders’ or ‘deceases’; and, further, that the term ‘disorder’ might be a… Read more »