Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has been decried as un-presidential and vulgar and his bloody crackdown on drugs and insults of former allies have sparked criticism.
The President has, however, managed to retain a crowd of Filipino supporters both at home and in the diaspora who consider him a hero.
In fact, the community known as Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) have given him widespread support for what they believe to be his unwavering support of the rights of Filipinos working overseas. Back in May when he was running, they had been key in helping him win the race and now with the election behind them, they remain loyal fans of his views and actions.
The OFWs are an important group to have as fans considering their sizeable contributions to the Philippine economy which tallies up to billions of dollars every year, contributing around 10% of the country’s GDP.
So how has President Rodrigo Duterte managed to stay on top of the criticism by the opposition of his anti-American sentiments, his vulgar language and his bloody war on drugs and has instead become a hero? The answer probably lies in the President’s actions that have captured the plights of the people.
Three of these people-oriented interventions by President Rodrigo Duterte that have made him a hero of the Filipino people;
Stopping Bullet Planting:
Bullet planting was a scam practiced by Filipino airport officials which saw them inserting bullets into the luggage of travelers and then detaining them for illegally carrying live ammunition all in a bid to extort huge bribes from them.
During his presidential campaign, President Rodrigo Duterte warned the staff of Manila’s Ninoy Aquino International Airport about bullet planting. He declared that any official linked with bullet planting should consider themselves retired from government service. He also threatened to force anyone caught practicing the scam to swallow the bullets.
After his inauguration, the president banned authorities from detaining passengers caught with bullets, effectively getting rid of the scammers’ ability to intimidate and extort money from victims afraid of missing their flights or being charged. Within his first 100 days in office, transportation authorities reported that there were zero reports of bullet planting.
Making Life Easier For Filipinos Working Abroad:
As was pointed out earlier, Filipinos working abroad are a huge boost to the economy back at home and they offer this boost at great cost to themselves. Most of them had to leave families and the comfort of home behind to find domestic work in foreign countries due to a poor economy in the Philippines.
Despite this fact, processing applications to go overseas used to be a Herculean task that took months and was extremely costly. The fact that it took months was a problem on its own because most Filipinos seeking to go overseas came from provinces around the Philippines and they had to find room and board in the capital for the duration of the application process and also travel around the congested city for paperwork.
A labor rally in the weeks before the May election saw Duterte stating that workers shouldn’t have a difficult time processing their application to go overseas and he proposed that all required permits should be available in one building. That resulted in an OFW “one-stop shop” being opened in August and there are plans to open more of such one-stop-shops outside of the capital too.
Helping Overseas Workers Facing Difficulties Abroad:
In August, the government of President Rodrigo Duterte carried out a month-long mission to help an estimated 11,000 OFWs stranded in Saudi Arabia, after their employers broke contracts as the local economy suffers under low oil prices.
President Duterte came out himself to greet 128 of those who were able to get back to the Philippines as they arrived at the airport. He noted the fact that many hadn’t been paid for months and announced that each would be given 5,000 pesos, then he told them; “Give me time to fix the economy, and you will have the opportunity to work here.”
President Rodrigo Duterte has managed to do work on a bulk of his campaign promises and has positioned himself as a president willing to fight for the people. Even the war on drugs which has recorded some regrettable casualties still furthers that position as the drug trade has hurt Filipinos for many years.