Rodrigo Duterte Threatens To Jail Critics As Fears Of Dictatorship Looms

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte is a man of the people according to his followers. But over a year into his presidency it appears that he is only a man for his followers, the rest can go to prison.

The firebrand president has recently threatened to jail his critics particularly those who disapprove of his recent decisions in Mindanao. This comes just days before the Supreme Court is set to rule on its legality reported GMA News.

After members of ISIS-linked groups took over a major city in the southern island of Mindanao, Duterte declared Martial Law encompassing the whole island. According his administration, this was to quell the groups' expansion and will only suspend the writ of habeas corpus.

This action was immediately met with protests from leftist and human rights groups. They claim that the president paving the way for a new dictatorship by using the ISIS attack as pretext.

To understand why so many Filipinos are against martial law, its history must be revisited. A history full of coups, rebellions, and revolutions as organizations as individuals vie for power.

The Philippines is a country that suffered under the brutal rule of Ferdinand Marcos. Decades of dictatorship where human rights were trampled and where the country was robbed of its riches and its future.

People protesting Rodrigo Duterte martial law.
Protesters fear Rodrigo Duterte is on his way to becoming a dictator after declaring Martial Law. [Image by Bullit Marquez/AP Images]

This was carried out through the declaration of martial law under the premise of fighting communist insurgency. But while communists did get their fair share of brutality from the military, people who were Marcos' political adversaries or those suspected of dissent also suffered under the yoke of military rule.

After the EDSA Revolution that saw the liberation of the Philippines from Marcos rule, the new government vowed never to repeat the dark days of Martial Law. The new constitution drastically limited the powers of the provision now requiring the approval of congress and specifying events where it is permissible.

Rodrigo Duterte bypassed these provisions declaring Martial Law in Mindanao without going through congress. Up to this day, the validity of his declaration is still being questioned by politicians and protesters alike.

Given his newfound reputation with his War on Drugs, a considerable number of Filipinos are concerned with Duterte's actions. During his time as Mayor of Davao he boasted that he, along with members of his police force, murdered a number of individuals for reasons ranging from crime to simply badmouthing him.

Rodrigo Duterte aims a sniper rifle.
Rodrigo Duterte claims he killed people during his time as Mayor. [Image by Bullit Marquez/AP Images]

His critics believe that his drug war is just a front to massacre innocent people and jail political adversaries including an incumbent senator. Should Duterte declare martial law in the whole country, it would be as if the dark days of Marcos has returned under the management of a more brutal dictator.

So far under his administration, over 5,000 suspected drug users have been killed in his War on Drugs. Over half of those numbers are in legitimate police operations where the officers were accused of using lethal force arbitrarily. Now the government has recruited former Islamist rebels to help their cause according to Asian Correspondent.

The conflict in Mindanao also saw disappointing results as the conflict continues to drag on. Military casualties now amount to 82 dead, a quarter of them due to friendly fire.

Despite this, however, the majority of Filipinos still support Duterte in his actions no matter how it is viewed by outsiders. They see him as the man to break the status quo, which has been blamed for the continued stagnation of the Philippine society.

He still enjoys some of the highest approval rating of any world leader. He presents himself as a man of the people, something the Filipinos have not seen since the days of Ramon Magsaysay over half a century ago.

While many still disagree with Rodrigo Duterte with some even wanting to see him deposed, his supporters are still very much devoted to him. Only time will tell the man they follow turns out to be the next Magsaysay, or the next Marcos.

[Featured Image by Bullit Marquez/AP Images]