Philippines' Duterte Is A Divisive Figure, Even Abroad
STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
An argument about the president turned a family against itself. We found members of this family on Washington's National Mall, you know, the grassy area where you find the Washington Monument and much else. Stand in the right spot, and you can see the White House. But the president who divides this family is a bit farther away. Here's NPR's Ashley Westerman.
ASHLEY WESTERMAN, BYLINE: It's a hot, sunny day on the National Mall.
ANTOINETTE: OK, since we left the house, we've had 6,123 steps.
WESTERMAN: Antoinette lives here in the D.C. area. And today, she's playing tour guide for her brother, Jose, who's come to visit her from out of town with his family.
JOSE: The Smithsonian is right there, so the station is over there, right?
WESTERMAN: While taking in the sights, they're also engaging in another D.C. pastime - talking about politics.
JOSE: Yes, I am pro and she is anti.
WESTERMAN: For and against Rodrigo Duterte. That's the president of the Philippines. He was inaugurated a year ago today, and his time in office so far has been just as controversial and unpredictable as he is. Though he enjoys high approval ratings, Filipinos both there and here are divided over his policies and untraditional rhetoric. Antoinette says she was shocked when Duterte became a presidential frontrunner.
ANTOINETTE: Because of the way he talked about women and how degrading it was.
WESTERMAN: She specifically points to the time Duterte at a campaign rally joked about the death and rape of an Australian missionary, but that was only the beginning. Then came his war on drugs. Jose says the Philippines has no choice.
JOSE: Some of these people who doesn't like the way Duterte handled the drug problem, they haven't been in the Philippines where you could see children hitting drugs on the streets. That's how rampant drug is in the Philippines. But I just don't favor the extrajudicial killings.
WESTERMAN: By some estimates, more than 7,000 people have died since the anti-drug campaign began last summer, either from encounters with the police or by so-called vigilantes. But for many Filipinos, it's complicated, even for Antoinette, who is against the tactic.
ANTOINETTE: We see the positive effect on my nephew because he's so scared that he's stopped taking the drugs because he was afraid that he will, you know, get killed. But at what cost?
WESTERMAN: Antoinette and Jose were born and raised there. We're not using their full names to protect family back in the Philippines that hold high positions in government. Now, they're amongst the over 3 million Filipino-Americans here in the U.S.
ANTHONY OCAMPO: You go to any Filipino household, they're reading about politics, both here as was the homeland. They're watching politics on television.
WESTERMAN: That's sociologist Anthony Ocampo. He says Filipinos living abroad maintain very strong connections to the homeland. Most send money back to their families. And numbers from the Philippines Commission on Elections show that over a million Filipinos overseas are registered to vote. Kelly Dayag is based in the San Francisco area. He runs a pro-Duterte blog and campaigned for him.
KELLY DAYAG: This all boils down to the frustration of the Filipino people.
WESTERMAN: Frustration that stems from years of rampant government corruption, lawlessness and a bad economy, he says.
DAYAG: The president might have a bad mouth, but he has a good heart for the Filipino people.
WESTERMAN: Of the some 50,000 Filipinos in the U.S. to cast ballots in last year's election, 60 percent of them voted for Duterte.
Neither Antoinette nor her brother Jose voted, though they do agree they want a better Philippines. They just can't agree on how to get there.
ANTOINETTE: The whole country is up in the air. We hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.
JOSE: We have to expect the worst.
WESTERMAN: Ashley Westerman, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.