I am a disabled American attorney and I live on a modest $1,275 per month in SSDI. In 2018, I moved to the Philippines, where my small income represents a solidly middle class income. The average person where I live, Bauan City in Batangas Region, makes about $400 per month. Of course, I support my Home Health Aide (my fiancée) and her children, so the SSDI is accomplishing a great deal.
Courts in the USA have made me into an asylum seeker because my human rights are under threat in America.
The Philippines has had problems with Communist guerrillas and Islamic terrorism in the southern part of the 7,000-island country that is the Philippines. Before I moved to the Philippines, President Duterte launched a crack down on violent crime and illegal drugs. I don’t know what it was like before 2018, but I have never been in a place with less crime. In 4 years, I have personally not seen any crimes and the police are a quiet presence.
My mental disability medications make it extremely inadvisable to use any other drugs, alcohol or cigarettes. I live very conservatively in that sense, but it has a positive impact on my health overall. Not to mention the police know me as being a quiet American lawyer who does not cause problems in my neighborhood, known locally as a barangay.
President Duterte has other policies that benefit me too. He said in 2016 that he would keep accepting asylum seekers until the brim was full. My asylum case is genuine and based on easily proven human rights violations by American courts, so the Duterte policy is directed at people like me, and I appreciate that.
Duterte walks a fine line between China, Russia, Japan, and the United States. He does not want to offend a superpower either in the region or globally. He also appears to understand that it is easier to oppose the United States and be forgiven than to offend a more autocratic country like China or Russia. Filipinos like America and Americans, so their president is careful not to offend his own people, who have many connections with the USA going back decades. English is an official language in the Philippines, while most Filipinos do not know Japanese, Chinese, or Russian. Countries that speak the same language do tend to be allied on the global stage.
President Duterte has juggled terrorism, natural disasters, violent drug lords, and of course the COVID-19 pandemic. He did so adroitly, though many from the outside may see a heavy hand. I do appreciate being safe when I walk down the street. I appreciate police being polite and helpful, which I have found them to be. I appreciate being able to get my COVID vaccine for free at a mass vaccination.
Mostly, I appreciate the professionalism and kindness of the Philippines DOJ Asylum Office. One can do worse than seek asylum in a tropical paradise where people are friendly. That’s the Philippines. Compared with the convoluted and hostile attitude of the American government toward asylum seekers, the Philippines has a better attitude.