Home / Applying Theory in Practice / Differing Perceptions of President Duterte


President Duterte’s admission that he personally participated in the killing of drug suspects earlier this week has caused an outcry from organizations such as the UN. Many have even called for Duterte’s resignation, as his reviled drug war has caused the deaths of over 6,000 people. However, sentiment in his own country has been mostly positive. According to Reuters, a recent poll had his net satisfaction rating at 63%. When people at a recent Duterte rally in Singapore were asked about their opinions, the overwhelming sentiment was that Duterte’s toughness was in the public’s best interest and his approach to solving the drug problem in the Philippines.

This mismatch of public opinion in the Philippines and global response may have more to do with proximity to the leader than agreement in values. Duterte’s charisma and passion for eradicating drug violence from his country appear to have made him a hero among his constituents even while those more removed from the situation criticize his tactics. This would appear to illustrate the concept of identification with the aggressor (Frankel 2002). For one to identify with the aggressor, there generally needs to be a severe threat to the self. When the threat to society is perceived as insurmountable, people will naturally be drawn to a powerful figure such as Duterte who champions their cause.

The general sentiment among the people at Duterte’s Singapore rally is that drug issues are worth putting the level of force Duterte is in order to eradicate them from the country. Identifying with Duterte’s charisma would appear to be the logical response from a population concerned about the well being of their country.


Frankel, J. (2002). Exploring Ferenczi’s Concept of Identification with the Aggressor: Its Role in Trauma, Everyday Life, and the Therapeutic Relationship. Psychoanalytic Dialogues,12(1), 101-139. doi:10.1080/10481881209348657

In Philippine Drug War, Death Toll Rises And So Do Concerns About Tactics. (n.d.). Retrieved December 23, 2016, from http://www.npr.org/sections/parallels/2016/11/28/503579840/in-philippines-drug-war-death-toll-rises-and-so-do-concerns-about-tactics 

Thousands of Filipinos gather to cheer Duterte in Singapore. (n.d.). Retrieved December 23, 2016, from http://www.reuters.com/article/us-singapore-philippines-idUSKBN1450YW 



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