Why Rodrigo Duterte’s vigilante justice strongly appeals to Filipinos

I recall two movie franchises I enjoyed in my youth, Clint Eastwood’s Dirty Harry, and Charles Bronson’s Death Wish. At the time these films were released, major cities in the United States were in the grips of a vast crime wave. Americans living in big cities lived in fear of the stereotypical armed mugger lurking around every corner. There are many other mass media works that tap into people’s lack of confidence in legitimate authorities’ ability to serve their needs. The A-Team and The Equalizer of 1980’s television added a layer of sophistication to the brutality of vigilantism Eastwood and Bronson portrayed in the 1970s. Even in the Golden Age of Cinematic Superheroes we are in the midst of today (thanks to the fully-matured computer-generated imagery (CGI) employed by today’s movies), the bad guys are portrayed as forces far more powerful than human security institutions could handle. Superheroes that simply “smash” (as The Incredible Hulk likes to call his way of resolving issues) save the day in every such stories.

In America, vigilantism is no longer seen to be as glamorous as it was in the 1970s and 1980s. But it is not because the vigilante heroes of Eastwood, Bronson, George Peppard, and Edward Woodward are now seen as the bad guys. Indeed, the characters they played remain strong cultural pillars in America. Rather, it was because America has improved its ability to protect its citizens using legitimately improved policing, investigation, criminal justice application, and security management.


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In the Philippines, the response of government in light of the increased scrutiny on Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte’s approaches to establishing law and order in his domain is to demonise him. While Duterte’s approaches are, indeed, violations of “human rights” and, we are told, have no place in “civilised” societies, it is interesting to note the 11-th hour (yet again) “indignation” being expressed by Imperial Manila’s chattering classes.

Perhaps what the likes of Department of Justice Secretary Leila De Lima who, in recent days, reportedly said that Duterte should be “held criminally liable for 1,000 summary killings in Davao City” should also consider is the question of whether a justice system as snail-paced, unreliable, and corrupt as that she presides over in the Philippines belongs in a “civilised” society.

The only way Filipino ‘superheroes’ like Rodrigo Duterte, who are loved and admired for their ability to simply smash rampant criminality, could be made to fade into the background of the national consciousness is for the Philippines’ police and justice authorities to step up and forward and take their righful places as the Filipino’s real champions. In short, bring back the days when one sees the police as the go-to people when in trouble.

The quaint hypocrisy in the way De Lima and so-called “champions” of “human rights” go around stomping their feet in contrived “indignation” is the real outrage on exhibit today. While championing “human rights” in the Philippines only yielded the flaccid post-1986 governments we see today, guys like Duterte were delivering real results to their constituents. Indeed, the notion that post-1986 governance in the Philippines was an improvement over the the allegedly dictatorial regime of former President Ferdinand E. Marocs has gone from being a widely-accepted truism into a hopelessly debatable idea. In fact, the idea that “freedom” and “justice” were “regained” by Filipinos after 1986 will likely degenerate further into no more than a curious myth thanks to the failed presidency of President Benigno Simeon ‘BS’ Aquino III.

If Duterte’s vigilante-style justice has no placed in “civilised” society, neither does the mediocre glacial-paced justice that people like De Lima and her boss, President BS Aquino, has had more than ample opportunity to fix. For that matter, until both vigilantism and the crooked way “justice” is served in the Philippines is fixed, the notion that the Philippines is a modern “civilised” nation remains debatable too.

18 Replies to “Why Rodrigo Duterte’s vigilante justice strongly appeals to Filipinos”

  1. How ironic…the “effective vigilantism” of a mayor is considered to be barbaric yet the government and the local police can’t solve rampant crimes in the country and are the ones who are truly corrupt in the first place.

    In times like this, I’m glad that such a “Punisher” exists in this world.

  2. Interestingly comment. As a German, I can only smile compassionately about the American justice system. Figures “Eastwood” and “Bronson”, “Hulk”, “Superman”, “Flash” and “Captain America” ​​are nothing more than on celluloid spellbound bullshit for glorification of a sick nation.
    Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte is right. In his district there is order. However, at present only the symptoms are treated. The causes of crime lie in poverty, lack of education and training and lack of work.
    The blame for this misery carry people like Aquino, De Lima and Mison (BI).
    – For example, in 2012 my company has been working to implement a wind turbine park and a biological landfill with methane gas production in Masbate. 2013 were 110 million US dollars investment funds available. However, there was by the BI and DOJ a corrupt game. Even correspondence with Aquino and its president Actions Center have brought nothing but blah blah blah. (Correspondence with Aquino is as available.) This went more than 2,000 permanent jobs for Filipinos lost. And of course, the possibility of training professionals.
    Now, these investment funds are in other countries.
    Rodrigo Duterte is on the right track. Criminals must break out in a cold sweat when they think of something evil! This includes politicians.

    1. wait until the 60-40 of the constitution is amended. i suggest you put up business in Davao City. you will not have any issues. 🙂

      1. Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte When is President, and the statutes are changed, I am the first, which in the Philippines is my business and I’ll advertise for the Philippines! Of course – to young people in professions train. But, under this present corrupt government goes nothing! It’s time to do something for the Philippines!

  3. Aquino and De Lima with her driver/lover, failed to deliver justice to: the Maguindanao massacre; the Decer-Corbito Murder case; the Police murder by the MILF; the Hacienda Luisita massacre, etc… Duterte is being praised as a hero; because he produced results.
    Aquino and De Lima with her driver/lover, only open their mouths, and produce : noxious gases….

  4. si duterte isang tao na ipinagmamalaki ay ang pagpatay ng mga mahihirap na kriminal. Snatcher,small time pusher , mandurukot etc.
    Hindi na ito usapin ng human rights ,vigilantism,peace and order etc.

    Ito ay si duterte , na ipinakikita lang nya ay yung kaya nya economically ang uubusin nya.

    Hehe sa mga tambay hindi respetado ang ganito, pinagtatawanan ito!

  5. The man who passes the sentence should swing the sword. If you would take a man’s life, you owe it to him to look into his eyes and hear his final words. And if you cannot bear to do that, then perhaps the man does not deserve to die.

  6. it took the allies less than a year to come up with the verdicts at the Nuremburg War Crimes Tribunal; here it’s 5 years and counting after the Maguindanao Massacre. Maybe it’s the climate, or maybe the bahala na attitude, but if this is the way justice works in the Philippines, it’s no wonder Duterte is so popular.
    But vigilantism is no solution either:
    it’s Basic Ethics 101: one cannot do evil though it may bring about good.

    1. When impotent Philippine justice is the only way. If the honest citizens have to live in fear; but the criminal can lead a life of bribes to police and Justitz as “God in France”, then something needs to be changed. Every criminal needs only when thinking about a crime, the blood in the veins – freeze. Murderers and drug traffickers and corrupt officials and politicians need to know that their actions will geandet.
      Moreover, who does not know the history, no dubious examples should give (Nuremberg War Crimes Tribunal, etc.).

    2. According to your ethics 101 logic, the American revolution of the 1700s and the Philippines revolution of the 1800s are both illegal and thus immoral.

  7. Because of Duterte’s “vigilantism”, Davao city is now a “civilized” city. In the makeup of the gov’t today, this is the only way we can survive the harsh realities of surviving decently. Only LGU’s can improve people’s plight from the national gov’ts inadequate governance.

  8. In the case of the Philippines the present administration is aggressive in cleaning up the whole country of graft, corruption, drugs, mediocrity, criminality and ineptitude of government officials from the top on down. He said this is not going to be easy. He said during his election campaign that if elected he is going to do what needs to be done to get this hell hole country of ours out of this predicament and it is going to be bloody. He’s just barely had a month and a half on the job and have done so much positive impact to the security and well being to the people of the country. He is relentless in his pursuit of clean government. He is doing everything
    right and is deserving of our full support. The least we could do is to give him our utmost full and unconditional love and support.

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