Today I attended a forum in De Anza College for Filipino Americans to learn more about the new Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte. Sponsored by National Alliance For Filipino Concerns Northern California, the Brotherhood for Duterte USA Chapter, the Digong Duterte Supporters NorCal and the Migrante Northern California, the De Anza forum talked about details of President Duterte’s agenda: programs that seek to help Filipino workers, farmers and overseas workers; describe his agrarian reform proposals; strengthen overseas consulates so it can better protect overseas Filipino workers from exploitaiton; and shift the balance of power from 200 families that control most of the Philippines’ economic and political power to the vast majority of people with little power.
Rico Foz talked about how foreign investors and the government control most of the economy, and how the military protect their vested interests. Over 70% of the Philippine population are farmers, and agrarian reform is needed so that this important sector of the economy is revitalized. Though the Philippines has had strong economic growth in the past few years, most of that wealth has gone to only 200 families that control most of the political and economic power in the country. The Public Private Project, which receives 200 billion pesos, was contracted to only 4 groups. How do you transition an economy that benefits only a few into an economy that benefits everyone?
Bernadette Herrera gave an emotional and moving talk of her experiences as an immigrant worker. The large majority of Filipinos are workers and farmers, yet they do not get to enjoy the fruits of their labor. She supports the Department of Agriculture’s attempts for land dispersal, so that farmers get to own the land they farm. Bernadette hopes that Duterte keeps his promise to end contractualization, so that overseas Filipino workers can be less vulnerable to being exploited. She is supportive of Duterte’s campaign to crack down on crime, as it has been a scourge that has had a terrible effect on poor communities and the young.
Reynaldo Aralar Jr. talked about Duterte’s accomplishments as mayor of Davao City. Before Duterte became mayor, Davao City was one of the most dangerous cities in the Philippines. Through his tough anti-crime measures, Davao City became one of the safest cities in Asia. His administration spent 12 million pesos on drug treatment centers, and he acquired 10 ambulances for a 911 emergency program that helps both poor and rich neighborhoods with equal efficiency. He passed a Woman Development Code that protects women from discrimination in the workplace.
I enjoyed meeting and talking to other Filipino Americans. I used to have a lot of Filipino American friends, but since I graduated from college, I haven’t really hung out with many Filipino Americans. It was especially nice to be around Filipino Americans who only speak English, as I was always criticized when I was young for not being able to speak Tagalog. These other Filipino Americans shared similar painful experiences.
I talked with a few lawyers, editors and supporters of Duterte who attended. I learned a lot that I didn’t know before about Duterte and Filipino culture. I look at things from an American lens, so there are some things that Filipinos see in Duterte that I don’t really get.
I have a greater respect for the progressive side of Duterte, but I still have some reservations about the dark side of Duterte. Some people talked about extrajudicial killings, and it didn’t really rid me of my unease at Duterte’s methods for getting rid of crime. So I came out of this forum with the same mixed feelings for President Duterte that I had coming into the forum. I really like a lot of things about Duterte, but really dislike some things about him.
Here are photos I took of the Forum