Duterte Fil-Am supporters see change for better

CALIFORNIA, United States - President Rodrigo Duterte will guide the Philippines to a new era marked by decisiveness resulting in the supremacy of law, say the new leader's admirers in the United States. 

While the former mayor of Davao City polarized his country with his take-no-prisoners policy against drug lords and his declarations of war against graft and corruption – not the least his willingness to joke about rape, Duterte has won fans even in the most progressive region here.

Filipinos here – Philippine passport holders and dual citizens alike – expressed optimism for the next 6 years.

"With his leadership, I expect drastic changes in law enforcement in the effort to curb criminality and drug addiction quickly," Chito Patricio, a community service provider in Daly City, told Rappler. 

"I also expect resistance from organized criminals and opposition from political organizations, but that is normal part of a change. His life may be in danger because of his aggressive approach." 

As supervisor of a program that connects underserved populations to public and private resources, Patricio works closely with elected and appointed officials. His experience here magnifies the problems in his home country, which he believes will be corrected in the new administration. 

"This one may take more time but I also expect the restoration of values in our citizens, public officials and a sense of fairness in the society," said Patricio, who came to this country to reunite with his permanent resident wife some five years ago. He is undecided about becoming a US citizen, even if he knows the Philippines recognizes dual citizenship.

Patricio was among nearly 17 million who voted for Duterte.

A native of Capiz, Patricio said defeated presidential candidate Manuel Roxas II, who is also from Capiz, did little for his province.

Capiz - its capital is Roxas City - has yet to sport the physical and economic infrastructure enjoyed by its neighbors, according to Patricio. "Roads in our town, Sapian, are impassable," he bewailed.   

"Duterte was the best candidate because of his track record as mayor of Davao City," Patricio pronounced. "Corruption, criminality and drug addiction have pushed our country into a state of hopelessness and it was only Duterte who appears to have a concrete and decisive solution. Our country needs a leader who will be respected not only by the citizens and  the public officials/leaders but will be feared by criminals as well."

People's state of the nation

As Duterte delivers his State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Monday, July 25 in Manila, his supporters gathered in San Francisco to herald the new day. (READ: 'Live: President Rodrigo Duterte’s State of the Nation Address (SONA) 2016' )

The Northern California component of Bayan USA held a rally on July 24 at the Center for Political Education on Valencia Street here.

Organizers called the event the People's State of the Nation Address, built on cultural performances "addressing the people's agenda for change for President Duterte."

The group spelled out its prescription for "CHANGE: Comprehensive social economic reform, Human Rights, Advancing the rights of OFWs and migrants, National Sovereignty/Anti-U.S. intervention, Genuine Agrarian Reform/Indigenous Rights, Education is a Human Right! No K-12 Program and Stop Public Private Partnership."

"'The Filipino people have been clamoring for change and with the inauguration of the new President, Rodrigo Duterte, there have already been significant changes and shifts in this president’s overall direction for the Philippines," the organization said in a statement.  The group delivered their action plan to Duterte June 29 at his inauguration in Malacanan. 

BAYAN USA was among the first U.S.-based Philippine advocacy groups to applaud the Duterte victory. 

"'With the inauguration of Rodrigo Duterte as President of the Philippines, we look forward to an opening to push for positive changes needed in the government and its policies," Bernadette Ellorin, BAYAN USA chair, said June 29 with a caveat.  "But no matter who is president, it is the people, united in collective action, that are the true agents of change. We must work to unite with and engage the incoming administration to truly depart from traditional Philippine politics and walk a pro-people, pro-sovereignty path.” 

Ellorin cited what she called Duterte's "pro-people policies" and opposition to "U.S. intervention in Mindanao" as basis for their endorsement.

"'We especially welcome Duterte’s push to renew formal peace negotiations between the National Democratic Front of the Philippines and the Philippine government," Ellorin stressed. "These negotiations, which have been the target of sabotage by both the Aquino and Arroyo administrations, aim to address the roots of the armed conflict--poverty, landlessness, and joblessness.

Bayan USA praised Duterte's appointment of Rafael Mariano as Secretary of the Department of Agrarian Reform, Dr. Judy Taguiwalo as Social Welfare Secretary, and Joel Maglunsod as Labor Undersecretary.

“These are exciting times for the Filipino people, and everywhere around the world people are watching closely at what this president will do," Ellorin said. "The demonization tactics of the Western media is proof that he is already ruffling the feathers of the U.S. government, which could be a prelude for destabilization if Duterte pushes through with an independent foreign policy.”

Duterte also received commendation from Gabriela USA.

“Women in the Philippines suffered unemployment, landlessness, violence and state sponsored repression for six long years under the previous Aquino administration and we are hopeful that President Duterte will address the concerns of women and their communities,” said Irma Bajar, chair of the worldwide movement. 

Its USA chapter lauded Duterte's appointment of former Gabriela chair Liza Masa as head of the National Anti-Poverty Commission, a new body convened to "defend and uphold the interests of women and of the Filipino people in general."

“This is an exciting time for our 'kababayan' not only because there are progressives serving in important roles in the new administration but because of the resumption of peace negotiations between the Government of the Philippines and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines,” said Bajar.

“We must continue to support the peace negotiations because through those talks, the roots of our people’s suffering can be addressed and we can build a truly independent Philippines where people can have decent livelihood and where the rights of the people are upheld.”

Neither Gabriela nor Bayan USA addressed Duterte's earlier comments on rape and behavior toward women.  

While campaigning he joked about regretting that he did not get to participate in the rape of an Australian missionary who was murdered.  As presidential-elect he branded his daughter a "drama queen" when she disclosed she  had been raped.  He ogled and wolf-whistled at a female journalist interviewing him.

Duterte downplayed the statements as street humor belied by his pro-women policies.

But those jokes are inappropriate at best, Elizabeth Angsioco, national chair of the Democratic Socialist Women of the Philippines, told Agence France Presse:  “His words and actions reinforce looking at women as second-class citizens."

Duterte's first marriage was annulled. He is in a relationship with a businesswoman by whom he has a daughter, and has publicly bragged about his mistresses. – Rappler.com

San Francisco Bay Area-based Rappler contributor Cherie M. Querol Moreno is editor at large of FilAm publications Philippine News and columnist of Philippines Today US.

Are you an OFW? Join Rappler's online community, BalikBayan.

Thousands of jobs are waiting for you back home. Click here to find a job in the Philippines on the Rappler x Kalibrr Job Board.