The Vigilante President

How Duterte’s Brutal Populism Conquered the Philippines

Credit: Heads of State

In his final year in law school at a Catholic men’s college in Manila, Rodrigo Duterte shot a classmate who made fun of his thick accent. The young “Rody,” as Duterte was then known, was the son of a provincial governor on the southern Philippine island of Mindanao. Like many of the progeny of the Philippine political elite, he had enjoyed a privileged upbringing. He grew up surrounded by guns and bodyguards, flew his father’s plane when he was in his hometown, and hung out with the sons of local notables in his Jesuit-run boys’ school. In Manila, however, …