THERE are many reasons why I hate Donald Trump.
And one of these is that he forces me to argue that President Rodrigo Duterte is not Donald Trump.
There are those who say that Donald Trump will be good for the Philippines. In fact, many of President Duterte’s supporters are pro-Donald Trump at heart. They celebrate the uncanny similarity in the political temperaments of these two Presidents, from their devil-may-care attitude towards mainstream media, to their iconoclastic perspectives on foreign relations. They both say ridiculous things to the discomfort of the liberals and the political establishments. The election of both can be considered as an outcome of a tidal wave of protest votes by the ordinary people against the political institutions that have long ruled over their respective countries.
On the other hand, there are those who hate both Presidents, and would use their similarities to further fuel their dislike for our President.
After all, both have the tendency to make controversial, politically incorrect statements that offend women. Trump was pilloried for his boasting of grabbing female genitalia, while Duterte offends many when he tells sex jokes.
Trump was taken to task when he made fun of a physically challenged journalist during a campaign sortie in South Carolina in February 2016, even as Duterte was criticized when he joked about the physical disability of his friend and made fun of an elderly person in one of his campaign appearances in Aklan in April 2016.
Indeed, it is easy to argue that Donald and Digong have many similarities.
But while these similarities may tempt one to imply a similarity in their politics, such is stopped on its tracks by the screaming reality that their populist politics actually fight for diametrically different causes. Their being iconoclasts and loud-mouths, their thinking out loud, and their dislike for traditional media are merely structural similarities that do not render justice to the deep-seated divergence of the nature of what they are fighting for.
Trump takes advantage of the disgust of the ordinary American voter with the Washington D.C. political establishment and its traditional politicians, and turns this around to favor big business and the wealthy. He brings to the presidency a lot of baggage, including his enormous private business interests from which he refuses to divest. He surrounds himself with a Cabinet of people that embody conflicts of interest.
Trump founded his campaign on a politics of fear of immigrants and Muslims that he wanted to build a wall between Mexico and the United States, and that he is poised to evict from the US millions of immigrants, mostly from countries that he identified as breeding grounds for terrorists, which incidentally for him includes the Philippines.
This you could not say of President Duterte. He tapped into the anger and fear of the people not towards the alien other, but towards the festering problem of drugs and criminality. He does not despise foreigners, but only those who bear foreign interests that compromise our sovereignty.
He may have made offensive jokes about women, but he made sure that the reproductive health law which favored them will be fully implemented. This, even as Trump is poised to preside over the massive defunding of planned parenthood programs.
Trump and his allies are raring to gut universal affordable health care, even as President Duterte is determined to make health care affordable and available to poor Filipinos.
President Duterte is not in office to protect the interest of business, as he is initiating reforms that would spur growth that is balanced towards the interest of both business and the ordinary working classes. He is pushing for a tax reform law that would ensure a fairer tax regime. He has approved the increase in the pensions of SSS beneficiaries. He is pushing for an educational reform agenda biased towards the poor.
The only thing that Trump may not have which may be to his advantage is that he is not accused by human rights activists for alleged involvement in state-sponsored killings, unlike President Duterte. But then again, our President can be accused of many things, but not of being racist, and of espousing hate speech that inspired racial and ethnic violence.
President Trump denies the existence of climate change. President Duterte does not deny climate change, but is only critical of the institutional arrangements that would govern how states will deal with it.
In sum, it is not only Trump’s speech that offends. The totality of his politics does.
On the other hand, one can grant the fact that President Duterte’s speech can be offensive to liberal sensitivities. But most of his policy directives, except his war on drugs and his support for the death penalty, enable and support progressively liberal political positions.
Rodrigo Duterte is not Donald Trump. And if you celebrate Duterte for their alleged similarities, or hate him even more for these, obviously, you really have not looked at Duterte beyond his speeches.