Politics and International Relations
This paper argues that Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte’s outlaw legitimacy is anchored on “social bandit-like morality.” Urban legends shared by SNS have constructed him as a “social bandit” who restores justice with compassion and violence outside of the law. Duterte supporters desired his iron discipline to destroy rotten system of the state and save the nation. However, the “moral we” who support Duterte has been constructed at the cost of the violent exclusion of criminalized “immoral others.” This criminalization resonates with neoliberal anti-poverty programs that aim to mold the poor into a “moral citizenry” as they also exclude the poor who reject civic morality as “undeserving of rescue.” Consequently, majority of the poor accept the war on drugs, believing they were saved for being “good citizens” and victims were “immoral others.” While it seems to be contradictory that a bandit, who is supposed to operate outside of the state, having grabbed state power, Duterte’s arbitrary rule takes advantage of modern states’ capacity to create “state of exception”(Giorgio Agamben). Many Filipinos found a hope in this politics but it still entails risks. Despite the call for a strong state, as state institutions have been weakened by Duterte’s arbitrary decisions, his “tough love” is implemented in distorted ways by the police, thus creating sentiments among ex-drug users that their trust in him has been betrayed. Without a strong legal legitimacy, the Duterte politics may face serious challenges when patriarchal compassion is perceived to be untrue.