This is a paper I wrote for my Political Philosophy class. The topic has something to do with Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte in relation with Niccolo Machiavelli’s well-known book, The Prince.
credits to Global Balita for this photo
This paper primarily deals with Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and the principle of “Machiavellianism” which is mainly discussed in Niccolo Machiavelli’s work, The Prince. This paper aims to analyze and discuss why President Duterte is a Machiavellian based on his actions and utterances.
The paper will discuss what “Machiavellianism” or “Machiavellian” actions actually mean through providing different definitions written in the related literatures used in this work. These descriptions and characterizations will be used then to analyze and explain the actions and utterances of President Duterte. This paper’s argument that President Duterte is a Machiavellian is expected to be explained and supported further using the means-ends approach: “the end justifies the means.”
Characterizing President Duterte using
the Principle of Machiavellianism
Duterte: A Manipulator of Appearance
In his case study of “Is Gerald Graff Machiavellian?” Don Bialostosky [1999:391] defined a Machiavel as a “schemer who will use any means to attain an end, a manipulator of appearances who will wear sheep’s clothing to satisfy wolfish appetites for power.”
The author of this paper believes that Duterte is indeed a manipulator of appearance. As an example, we can consider what happened during the filing of candidacy for the presidential position October of last year and even in the campaign period. As we can remember, Duterte, as an “outsider” in the presidential race, was known to be hesitant of filing his candidacy for presidency. He kept on saying that unlike his opponents, he was not really that thirsty of winning the presidential position and what he only wants is to help the country. Richard Javier Heydarian  noted in his article, “The Philippines under President Duterte,” that “many experts believe that Duterte’s professed reluctance was simply a calculated public relations stunt.”
He seemed to appear like he was not that desperate of wanting the position, obviously different and opposite from what his opponents were displaying of themselves, to gain the trust, support, and loyalty of the people. He wore that “sheep’s clothing” to win the position. Now that he was elected as president, we can see that it was an effective strategy. To look like uninterested made him win the position knowing that people are tired of the usual scheme of politicians showing too much interest of the power and position.
Duterte’s Advocacy of Empowering the Police and Military
According to Karl Walling [1995:419], one of the attributes of a Machiavellian statesman is that he “advocates military and commercial empire whose dynamic virtú posed a severe threat to republican virtue.”
In his more or less six month-stay as the president of the Republic of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte’s name is creating not just a national but also an international debate with regards to his “War on Drugs.” In his war on drugs, we can see how the president gives most of the task to the police officials in the country. Thus empowering and giving them the right to hurt and kill people (drug pushers, users, and let us not forget those misjudged innocent ones). Since the day he sat in the presidential seat, extrajudicial killings become rampant. Number of peoples are getting killed every day. There are also several cases wherein our police officials are seen to be abusing their use of power. There are those who use their police power and position to have the right to hurt people, not to say, protesters in front of the PH US Embassy. There are also these cases wherein caught drug pushers are getting killed inside the police car and even in jails.
These killings and “abuse of power” gets more disturbing as days pass by. Police officials in the country today are not afraid to draw and shoot their guns to their fellow citizens because the president has given them the power. This empowerment is very disturbing that it already frightens and threatens the people, may they be the targeted drug users and pushers or the innocent ones.
Machiavellianism as Manipulation, Exploitation, and Deviousness
In Ferrel et al. [1989:689], Calhoon [1969:211], defined a modern day Machiavellian administrator as “one who employs aggressive, manipulative, exploiting and devious moves in order to achieve personal and organizational objectives.”
Aside from the discussed manipulation of appearance, President Duterte also has the tendency of manipulating other people because of his aggressive personality. Moreover, he has the ability of understanding social institutions that it can manipulate them: he can order killing people without him and the ones who are responsible in the killings being punished. President Duterte has his devious ways. Meaning, he uses a “roundabout way of accomplishing a task that … can be construed as ethical from a utilitarian base in that the intent is to save lives” [Ferrel et al. 1989:690]. He could break the law because his “War on Drugs’” overall motive is good.
Another characteristic of a Machiavellian is that his behaviors involve “the exploitation of the weaknesses of others, presumably in an effort to implement their own desired ends” [Lindsay et al. 1966:228]. In the Philippines under the Duterte presidency today, we can see how the weaknesses of the ordinary Filipino citizens are being exploited. Human rights are getting violated because of the administrations way of eradicating drugs in the country.
Duterte’s “War on Drugs” and
Machiavelli’s Notion of “End Justifies the Means”
One of the most prominent ideas embarked by Machiavelli in the field of politics is his belief that the “end justifies the means.” In The Prince, he discussed how and when cruelty and deception become acceptable and favorable. As what Machiavelli told Piero Soderini, “In judging policies, we should consider the results that have been achieved through them rather than the means by which they have been executed.” Machiavelli believes that what matters is the end or the result and not the way or process used to achieve such end.
President Rodrigo Duterte’s same belief on this Machiavellian idea is what makes his actions and utterances Machiavellian. He sees his “War on Drugs” as something like the “end justifies the means.” Duterte believes that his lawless means of getting drug pushers and users killed is acceptable because his motive is to free the country from drug use which he firmly believes that is one of the main roots of poverty in the Philippines.
Bialostosky, D. . Is Gerald Graff Machiavellian? Style, Vol. 33, No. 3, Postmodernism and
Other Distractions: Situations and Directions for Critical Theory, pp. 391-404
Ferrel, O.C., Fraedrich J., and Pride, W. . An Empirical Examination of the Three
Machiavellian Concepts: Advertisers vs. the General Public. Journal Business Ethics, Vol.
8, No. 9, pp. 687-694
Lindsay, C. A. and Marks, E. . Machiavellian Attitudes: Some Measurement and
Behavioral Considerations. Sociometry, Vol. 29, No. 3, pp. 228-236
Walling, K. . Was Alexander Hamilton a Machiavellian Statesman? The Review Politics,
Vol. 57, No. 3, pp. 419-447
Heydarian, Richard Javier. “The Philippines under President Duterte.” Brookings.edu. May 23,
(Accessed 06 December 2016)