Rodrigo Duterte's term as President of the Philippines from 2016 to 2022 had a major impact on the country. Although his extremely tough approach to combating drug abuse problems was accompanied by numerous human rights violations and killings, Duterte consistently achieved approval ratings of around 80 % during his presidency. In this PRIF report, Peter Kreuzer looks at how this can be explained, what influence Duterte had on public expectations of governance and politics, and what implications this has for Philippine democracy.
In the first step of the analysis, Peter Kreuzer uses survey data to show that Duterte did not use an existing demand for tougher anti-crime measures, but that he was only able to successfully make this issue a high priority among the Filipino population through his election campaign. The second step sheds light on the political culture of the Philippines. Surveys in this regard reveal a widespread acceptance of violent conflict resolution or enforcement of interests, an instrumental view of democracy and human rights, which are primarily seen as a means of satisfying basic human needs, and widespread support for the concept of a strong, powerful leader. In the final step, the evaluation of Duterte's presidency by the Filipino population is examined in more detail. It is shown that both his concrete measures and his political style are met with great approval. Kreuzer concludes that supporters of liberal democracy in the Philippines must recognize that the population prioritizes basic needs such as supply and security over principles such as the rule of law or human rights. Accordingly, they would have to demonstrate in the future that it is possible to satisfy these needs while respecting liberal democratic principles.
Peter Kreuzer is a Senior Researcher and head of the project "Democracy beyond legitimate coercion: Deadly use of force by the police in the Philippines and Brazil" at PRIF. His research focuses on ethnocultural conflicts and repressive political violence in Southeast Asia.
Download: Kreuzer, Peter (2023): Rodrigo Duterte: The Legacy of a Widely Popular Strongman President, PRIF Report 7/2023, Frankfurt/M.