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Rodrigo Duterte, scorned abroad, remains popular in the Philippines

MANILA — Virgilio Mabag figures there is a good chance that his brother, a methamphetamine addict, will become a casualty of President Rodrigo Duterte’s deadly campaign against drugs in the Philippines.

“I told him to prepare himself to die,” Mabag said.

But Mabag, 54, supports Duterte, saying his policies will make the country safer and more orderly.

“I’m delighted,” said Mabag, who was wearing a Duterte T-shirt. “This is the only time I’ve seen a president like this, who says exactly what he wants to say.”

The rest of the world may have trouble understanding this, but Duterte still commands ardent support in the Philippines.


Since he took office in June promising to kill drug addicts and dealers, about 1,400 people have been killed by the police in antidrug operations and hundreds more by vigilantes. His embrace of violence has shocked other countries and earned him condemnation from human rights groups.

He has compared himself to Hitler (and later apologized), called President Obama a “son of a whore,” and joked after an Australian missionary was raped and killed that “she was so beautiful” he should have been first to rape her. He has lashed out at the pope and cursed the United Nations and the European Union.

No matter. For many Filipinos, his passionate outbursts are signs of his fearlessness and willingness to act.

The first national polls since Duterte became president came out this week. One poll found that 83 percent of Filipinos had “much trust” in him, compared with 84 percent in June, after he was elected but before he took office.

The other showed his trust rating falling slightly, to 86 percent in September from 91 percent in July.

“His initiatives, and this includes the antidrug campaign, are well received by the people,” said Ramon C. Casiple, executive director of the Institute for Political and Electoral Reform.