The poster on the wall presents the tough-talking president-elect of the Philippines.
Flanked by Canadian and Philippine flags, the sign proclaims: “True change.”
Around the table, Vancouver-area supporters of Philippine president-designate Rodrigo Duterte talked about plans for a public celebration of his decisive May 9 victory in the Asian country’s presidential elections.
Reynaldo Bahena, a well-esteemed leader in the local Filipino community, is one of Duterte’s advocates.
“It’s actually more of an angry people voting for a change,” Bahena told the Georgia Straight before the meeting started early evening Tuesday (May 10).
According to Bahena, a financial and immigration advisor, Filipinos are “angry at the status quo” for having failed to stamp out criminality and eradicate corruption in government.
Bahena is a key organizer of the Pilipino Patriots of Canada, a group that started in February this year as Philippine election campaign got underway. It is based at a Fraser Street office maintained by entrepreneur Glen Delfino Ong.
Hailed as a people’s saviour by admirers and portrayed as a future tyrant by critics, Duterte has been dubbed the Trump of the East because of his shocking statements.
The long-time mayor of Davao City in the southern island of Mindanao has earned nicknames such as the ‘Punisher’ because of his open backing for death squads that go after criminals.
A former government prosecutor, the 71-year-old politician is also known as ‘Duterte Harry’. It’s a play on police officer Harry Callahan, the Clint Eastwood movie character who has little time for legal niceties.
“All of you who are into drugs, you sons of bitches, I will really kill you,” Duterte said in a speech at his last campaign rally in Manila before the ballot.
But according to his Vancouver fan Bahena, it’s all “hyperbole”.
“He exaggerates things,” Bahena said.
Bahena said that like anywhere else, “even in Canada”, police officers shoot “if they feel that they are in danger” from criminals.
When Duterte announced his candidacy in November last year, he narrated in jest that he cursed at Pope Francis as a ‘son-of-a-whore’ when he got caught in a traffic jam caused by the papal visit in Manila.
In expletive-ridden speeches, he has joked about sex and rape.
Duterte threatened to sail to and plant a Philippine flag on one of the artificial islands created by China in the disputed South China Sea.
A self-proclaimed ‘socialist’, he has indicated his desire to strike peace with communist rebels waging an armed Maoist insurgency since the late 1960s.
Duterte also warned that he will abolish Philippine Congress and proclaim a revolutionary government if he doesn’t get legislative support.
Jose Ampeso is a former Philippine diplomat. The ex-consul general in Vancouver and now a local area resident came to observe the meeting of members of the Pilipino Patriots of Canada last Tuesday (May 10).
Asked about his opinion of Duterte, Ampeso told the Straight: “However offensive he may have been, really deep within him, I think he is known to be working for what is good for the country. Now is the time to leave all of our differences.”
Bob Ocio is a former councillor in Cagayan de Oro, a prosperous city in southern Philippines.
Ocio noted that Duterte earned “spontaneous support” from the local Filipino community.
“What resonates is the frustration of the Filipino people in government,” Ocio told the Straight.
In addition, Ocio said that Canadian Filipinos support Duterte’s plan to institute federalism in the Philippines, which is the same system of government in Canada.
According to Ocio, a federal system of government leads to an equitable distribution of political power and wealth across the country.
Meanwhile, Bahena said that the Pilipino Patriots of Canada plans to set itself up as a registered nonprofit to provide assistance to the Philippines, especially in the aftermath of natural disasters.