What You Need to Know About Rodrigo Duterte
A GIFs guide to the Philippines’ sociopathic, human rights-violating president.
Published on December 18, 2016

G’day, traveller! At present, America is being controlled by a balding man-child—and I’m not talking about Putin. Things are rough in the U.S., but at least they’re not Philippines-rough. That island nation’s leader, President Rodrigo Duterte, is so terrible and scary that he out-Trumped the Donald in 2016. The former mayor of Davao City has had a horrific and sociopathic reign—and he’s only been in office since May.

As Duterte continues to dig himself into a very deep diplomacy hole full of human rights abuses—unlike Trump, not everyone is OK with his methods—it’s important to remember his volatile first seven months in a power. As media coverage of Duterte expands, hopefully our fascism-friendly Trump doesn’t get any ideas.

As we know, GIFs are the supreme form of media. They can be used to describe the atrocities of climate change and the history of flag burning. Plus, they’re trippy. Here’s a timeline of Duterte’s half year in power.


Before being elected President, Duterte was mayor of Davao City for 22 years, although not in consecutive terms. There, he was dubbed, “The Punisher.”

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Unfortunately, like 1989’s The Punisher and other movies starring Dolph Lundgren, he’s not fun.

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As mayor, allegations of ties to “death squads” caused Human Rights Watch to link him to the deaths of over 1,000 people since 1990, while he was in local office.

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“Watch out, because the 1,000 people will become 100,000. You will see fish in Manila Bay getting fat. That is where I will dump you,” Duterte said on May 24, 2015, after announcing his intention to run for president.

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In Nov. 2015, Duterte lashed out at Pope Francis, criticizing His Holiness for causing traffic: “We were affected by the traffic. It took us five hours. I asked why, they said it was closed. I asked who is coming. They answered, the Pope. I wanted to call him, ‘Pope, son of a whore, go home. Do not visit us again.’”

During his campaign, Duterte claimed that he was “used to killing people,” and told a vague story about shooting a fellow law school student in his youth.

He also claimed he could eradicate crime in six months and promised to abolish Congress if elected. Who the hell are the electors?

And he said he “couldn’t live without Viagra.”

Last April, Duterte joked about the rape and murder of Australian lay minister Jacqueline Hamill during a 1989 Davao City Jail riot, when he was mayor. “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,” he said. People everywhere were outraged. His party issued an apologetic statement.

Which didn’t matter, because Duterte disowned the apology, saying, “I will never really apologize,” and told Australian and American ambassadors to “shut their mouth.”

In August, after assuming office, Duterte claimed he told Secretary of State John Kerry that the U.S. Ambassador was a “gay son of a whore.”

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Later, Duterte was supposed to meet with President Obama, but after calling him a “son of a whore,” telling him to “go to hell,” and insulting U.S.-Philippines relations, the meeting was off.

Shortly after that, Duterte likened himself to Hitler, saying he would be “happy to slaughter” the 3 million supposed drug addicts in the Philippines. Duterte’s “anti-drug” campaign has executed over 6,000 people since he took office in July.

After Trump was elected in November, Duterte said he could be a “friend” to Trump, and that the president-elect endorsed his brutal anti-drug plan, saying he was doing it “the right way.”

Last week, Duterte bragged about killing criminals while he was mayor: “In Davao, I used to do it personally—just to show to the guys that if I can do it, why can’t you? And I’d go around in Davao with a motorcycle, with a big bike around, and I would just patrol the streets, looking for trouble also. I was really looking for a confrontation, so I could kill.”

Enough is enough. This week, the U.S. decided to defer aid to the Philippines due to human rights concerns.

Duterte is a walking headline, but it’s important to remember that when he picks fights with world leaders or talks about sex pills and mistresses, he’s just distracting from the real issue of appalling human rights violations in the Philippines.

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Which is a tactic that should sound vaguely familiar.

Claire Downs
Claire Downs is a writer and comedian based out of Los Angeles. She's written for Nickelodeon, VH1, Funny or Die, and Hello Giggles. You can follow her on Twitter @clairecdowns. She prefers Indica to Sativa, in case you're wondering.
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