Rodrigo Duterte, The Philippines’ New President
At the time of the writing of this article, the Unites States’ elections were still underway. But as we brace for the changes of the next presidency, the citizens of the Philippines are also experiencing many changes in their own land with their new president, Rodrigo Duterte. Duterte has only been in office since late June of this year, but has been getting international attention as one of the most controversial and vulgar political figures in the global political arena. What follows are excerpts from a report by Angela Lu for World magazine describing how Duterte is carrying out his presidency.
Since Duterte took office in late June, police and vigilante groups have, with his blessing, gunned down more than 3,000 purported criminals, and officials claim another 700,000 people have turned themselves in.
While the international community condemns the extrajudicial killings, at home Duterte enjoys a 91 percent approval rating: Locals love how he stands up to drug dealers and corrupt officials, speaks like a commoner, and cares little about critics’ opinions….
Overall, Filipino Protestants (who make up 3 percent of the population) are divided about Duterte, as the promise of effective governance butts heads with the principle of the sanctity of life, including criminal lives. All agree the corrupt, drug-infested country needs to change: The question is how far to go to achieve that change….
It seems no one is immune to Duterte’s profanitylaced attacks: He has joked about the rape and murder of a missionary, insulted U.S. President Barack Obama, and flipped the bird at the European Parliament. Even calling the pope a ‘son of a whore’ hasn’t chilled his welcome with the largely Catholic population. In response to a backlash over his comments, Duterte apologized while claiming his words were taken out of context. That’s just “how men talk,” he said. Yet his harshest words have been reserved for drug dealers and addicts: He vowed to kill even his own children if they were involved in illegal drug activities….
The local embrace of Duterte reflects the population’s frustration with a corrupt and weak government, where officials colluded with drug syndicates and justice was rarely served.1
Aurora Almendral in a report for The New York Times writes,
His government has paved the way for indigenous people displaced by mining and logging to return to their ancestral lands, has committed to providing free irrigation to subsistence farmers, has suspended the operations of mining companies that violated environmental protection laws, and has begun a program of free checkups for the 20 million poorest Filipinos….
But Melinda Quintos de Jesus, executive director of the Center for Media Freedom, said that threats by pro-Duterte online mobs had intimidated the national news media.
The local news media has published some criticism and several reports on specific cases of extrajudicial killings, she said, but the major television stations and newspapers have failed to produce critical analyses of Mr. Duterte’s policies. “They like him, they fear him,” she said. “They basically are afraid to be singled out.”2
Duterte has threatened to impose martial law if his war on drugs is hindered. He has reportedly said, “I don’t care about human rights, believe me.” He has compared himself to Hitler. His actions are seen by some as a threat to democracy in the Philippines, and a slippery slope towards tyranny. He has also reportedly said, “If you know of any addicts, go ahead and kill them yourself as getting their parents to do it would be too painful.”
The new president of the Philippines creates many uncertainties— uncertainties that also affect the Christians there, including, of course, the churches in the Philippines and our missionaries there. With all the uncertainties that come with a new president, we can be thankful that God is in sovereign control of it all. We can have the same confidence Daniel had, when in Daniel 2 he prayed to God, saying, “Blessed be the name of God for ever and ever: for wisdom and might are his: And he changeth the times and the seasons: removeth kings, and setteth up kings: he giveth wisdom unto the wise, and knowledge to them that know understanding” (). Let us remember to pray for the saints in the Philippines, for all those in authority over us, and for ourselves, that we might have the grace to submit to all those whom God has placed in authority over us.
Further Advances in the Euthanasia Movement
News headlines this past September told the story of the first minor in Belgium to be euthanized since age restrictions were removed two years ago. Belgium first legalized euthanasia for adults in 2002. In 2014 they legalized euthanasia for minors.
The question comes to us: What could be next?
Then in mid-October there was this report given by Toby Sterling for Reuters about what the Dutch would like to do:
The Dutch government intends to draft a law that would legalize assisted suicide for people who feel they have ‘completed life,’ but are not necessarily terminally ill, it said on Wednesday.
The Netherlands was the first country to legalize euthanasia, in 2002, but only for patients who were considered to be suffering unbearable pain with no hope of a cure.
In a letter to parliament, the health and justice ministers said details remain to be worked out but that people who ‘have a well-considered opinion that their life is complete, must, under strict and careful criteria, be allowed to finish that life in a manner dignified for them.’
The proposal is likely to provoke critics who say Dutch euthanasia practice has already expanded beyond the borders originally envisioned for it, with ‘unbearable suffering’ not only applying to people with terminal disease, but also to some with mental illnesses and dementia.
The euthanasia policy has widespread backing in Dutch society, and cases have risen by double digits every year for more than a decade as more patients request it and more doctors are willing to carry it out. Euthanasia accounted for 5,516 deaths in the Netherlands in 2015, or 3.9 percent of all deaths nationwide.3
Currently in a few states in the United States there is the push to legalize doctor-assisted suicide. What follows is part of a report from the editorial board of The New York Times, clearly in favor of legalizing doctor assisted suicide:
New York, Colorado, and the District of Columbia may soon join the handful of states where doctors are allowed to help terminally ill patients die by prescribing a lethal dose of painkillers.
A proposal to allow physician-assisted dying will be on the ballot in Colorado next month. In the District of Columbia, the District Council’s Health and Human Services Committee last week approved a physician-assisted dying bill that the full council could vote on before the end of the year. New York lawmakers, meanwhile, are hopeful that support in the Legislature for aid-in-dying bills will soon overcome opposition from religious leaders and some medical groups.
Victories in the three jurisdictions would galvanize a movement that seeks to give terminally ill Americans a dignified alternative to the dismal choices they face in most of the country. In states where assisted dying is banned, some terminal patients manage to get a lethal dose of drugs from medical professionals under the table, which exposes the health care workers to prosecution. Others are advised to starve themselves to death.4
Here are some facts obtained from the BBC on the advances made in legalizing euthanasia and assisted suicide:
- The Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxembourg permit euthanasia and assisted suicide.
- Switzerland permits assisted suicide if the person assisting acts unselfishly.
- Columbia permits euthanasia
- California last year joined the US states of Oregon, Washington, Vermont, and Montana in permitting assisted dying.
- Canada passed laws allowing doctor-assisted dying in June of this year.5
- The BBC report also gives a helpful definition of the different terms that are used:
- Euthanasia is an intervention undertaken with the intention of ending a life to relieve suffering, for example a lethal injection administered by a doctor.
- Assisted suicide is any act that intentionally helps another person kill themselves, for example by providing them with the means to do so, most commonly by prescribing a lethal medication.
- Assisted dying is usually used in the US and the UK to mean assisted suicide for the terminally ill only, as for example in the Assisted Dying Bills recently debated in the UK.6
How grateful we can be as Christians that our dignity is not bound up in who we are of ourselves, but in who we are in Jesus Christ. How grateful we can be as Christians that no matter how miserable our lives may be, we can be confident that the Lord is still using the breath in our lungs to bring glory and honor to His name. How grateful we can be as Christians that there is not one ounce of affliction that is superfluous and unnecessary for us to experience, but that the Lord is in some manner turning it toward our everlasting welfare and the everlasting welfare of all His people. “And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (). “From the end of the earth will I cry unto thee, when my heart is overwhelmed: lead me to the rock that is higher than I” (). That is the response of faith.
1 Angela Lu, “Enforcer of the Philippines,” World, vol. 31, no. 21, September 30, 2016, accessed October 14, 2016, https://world.wng.org/2016/09/enforcer_of_the_philippines.
2 Aurora Almendral, “Rodrigo Duterte, Scorned Abroad, Remains Popular in the Philippines,” The New York Times, October 13, 2016, accessed October 14, 2016, https://nyti.ms/2dZxnlu.
3 Toby Sterling, “Dutch may allow assisted suicide for those who feel life is over,” Reuters, October 12, 2016, accessed October 14, 2016, http://www.reuters.com/article/us-netherlands-euthanasiaidUSKCN12C2JL.
4 “Aid in Dying Movement Advances,” The New York Times, October 10, 2016, accessed October 13, 2016, http://nyti.ms/2dNdYC9.
5 “Belgium minor first to be granted euthanasia,” BBC News, September 17, 2016, accessed October 13, 2016, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-37395286.
6 BBC, “Belgium…euthanasia.”