If you thought of Trump or Prince Phillip as the only leaders who cannot be trusted to open their mouths without some highly offensive or controversial statement coming out, think again. Because if anyone is worse than these two, it is the Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte.
The fiery leader recently referred to Oxford university as the “college for idiots” after it released a report that the president hired a cyber army to increase his popularity on social media.
The study, “Troops, Trolls and Troublemakers: A Global Inventory of Organised Social Media Manipulation”, looked at the strategies used by political parties and candidates in 28 different countries to spread their party messaging and inflate social media engagement numbers.
It claims that Duterte’s camp paid $200,000 (£150,000) in 2016, the year he was elected, for a social media campaign that used citizens and groups to promote and defend him online.
Duterte has admitted to paying people to defend him on social media but said this only happened during the campaign season, strongly denying it continued after he was elected.
“Now I do not need it. I do not need to defend myself against attacks. I stated my piece during my inauguration and my campaign,” he said, according to local news outlet, Rappler. “Oxford University? That’s a school for stupid people.”
Duterte, a former mayor from the southern city of Davaol, who believes that suspected drug dealers and users should be extra judiciously executed, won the 2016 election with a populist message that targeted drug trafficking.
Here are some of Duterte”s controversial statements:
- “A leader must be a terror to the few who are evil in order to protect the lives and well-being of the many who are good.”
- “If I become president, I advise you people to put up several funeral parlour businesses. They will be packed. I’ll supply the dead bodies.”
- “Pardon given to Rodrigo Duterte for the crime of multiple murder, signed Rodrigo Duterte.”
- “You son of a whore Pope Francis. Why don’t you just go home?”
- “Many are asking what my credentials are and what I can do for the Philippines. They are telling me that they heard I am a womaniser. That is true. That is very true.”
- “I was angry because she was raped, that’s one thing. But she was so beautiful, the mayor should have been first, what a waste.”
- “Hitler massacred three million Jews … there’s three million drug addicts. There are. I’d be happy to slaughter them.”
Rodrigo Duterte’s first year as President of the Philippines should never be forgotten – for all the wrong reasons. For those directly affected by his brutal and lawless “war on drugs”, which has claimed the lives of thousands of people, the only hope is for an end to the suffering. But in the absence of a clear international declaration against Duterte’s disastrous regime, that hope is in vain.
The sad fact is that much of the suffering Duterte is inflicting was entirely predictable. The Philippines’ human rights institutions are fragile, and Duterte came to office with a well-known record as a mayor who sanctioned death squads to dole out vigilante justice in his city. But the international community failed to respond to his election with due alarm, and it is still failing to realise the sheer destruction the Duterte administration is causing. How bad will it need to get before other nations back away from him?