You might want to read Further to understand the title “Killing Time in Paradise”, lol

You are probably aware that the Philippines became a very different country on May 9th, electing a new President, Mr. Rodrigo Roa Duterte (nickname “Rody”), who positively encourages extra-judicial killings. Does this development have any implications for you and your plans to live a happy life in this foreign country? Is it time to consider living somewhere else?
The answer is clearly both Yes and No.
The No dimension is easier and more comforting to address so I will start with it. Rody did not explicitly say that everyone should simply kill anyone they don’t like. Indeed, he even qualified his statements to clarify that it was okay only to kill someone who had done something wrong or, as he so eloquently puts it, someone who is a “son-of-a-bitch”. So according to Rody, everyone who is decent, law-abiding and toeing the line will have nothing to fear.
There is safety as well in the fact that not everyone in this country owns a guns, only maybe 60% (so only some 60 million people) and even many people who own guns are not of a mind to kill anyone (unless they are policemen, who seem to regard killing as part of their training).
So expats in the Philippines are almost certainly going to be safe unless they are hanging out with known criminals or the police. Speaking from personal experience, I have been in the Philippines some 4 years and have yet to see a shooting let alone a killing, although I did see one crime scene where some dozen bullet casings were clearly marked on the ground. I have not even heard a gunshot, which is particularly noteworthy because the last place I lived in Dumaguete was well-known for drugs and one month boasted 8 murders, all drug related apparently. For the record, none of the shooters or the dead were foreigners.
So it entirely possible for anyone in the Philippines to look forward to the same kind of peace with Rody in the President’s chair as we have enjoyed under the outgoing President Benigno Aquino, where the extrajudicial killing will be largely restricted to the aforementioned drug people along with sundry politicians and, with all too depressing frequency, journalists.
If this is the case, why did I suggest in the beginning that all foreigners have cause to reevaluate their security since gunslinger Rody was picked by a landslide to lead the country?
The first reason lies in the very definition of extra-judicial killings, that they take place without any due process, any legal niceties, any hard evidence. Rody went on to explain why he thinks this is irrelevant, starting with the fact that if you are killed you must have done something wrong. He has an inspiring but laughable belief that nothing bad ever happens to innocent people.
This is all reminiscent of the days of old when witch hunting was a familiar game played throughout Europe and America. The ultimate test for whether someone was a witch was admirably simple: you only had to submerge them in water for awhile. If they survived, they were clearly witches and you had to burn them. If they drown, then clearly they were not witches and all was forgiven, apologies all round for the false accusation.
Already Rody’s proclamations – including rewards exceeding 50 million pesos for every dead drug lord – have led to a spike in underground killings, sometimes featuring victims who were certainly involved in the drug trade … well, almost certainly … as well as a few people who were less suspicious, including a pastor who actually campaigned against drugs. Go figure.
To his credit, Rody’s appearance has also led to a spike in suspected drug dealers surrendering to the police, these unsavoury folk cleverly working out that it is better to be alive and in prison than dead and in a box, as well as a few less suspicious citizens seeking police protection simply because they have enemies with guns.
These unusual moves suggest that Rody’s Presidency might just make the Philippines a better place by drastically reducing the drug problem and other forms of criminality. The question that has to be answered is which will be the majority still standing in the end – the peacemakers of the country or the new killers who have eliminated the supposed lawbreakers?
Whichever way it goes, foreigners will probably barely notice the contest going on around them. But these same foreigners who heed one warning: it is all too easy in this country to lapse into the mindset of the killers themselves. It is a truism that the President sets the tone for the country as a captain sets the tone for a ship.  Now, whereas Captain Aquino favoured gentility and has overseen a huge improvement in Filipino manners, at least on the world stage, Captain Rody relies on brutality and everyone in the country, including we foreigners, is liable to be influenced by his unforgiving attitudes.
A case in point: never before have I been in a country where it is so easy to stare an opponent in the face and use the phrase: “I am going to kill you.” In other lands, dozens of other menacing but less fatal phrases would first pop to mind. Here it is all too normal to use the ultimate threat from the off. Why? Well, for starters, because the President might actually pay you for putting your words into action. That is worrying.

Lets all keep our fingers crossed that Killing Time in Paradise will just remain a catchy phrase.


Before Terence settled in the Philippines, he lived and wrote about his experiences living in Thailand. Just out his previous works at