Rodrigo Duterte, the President of the Philippines, was sworn in on June 30th, 2016 becoming the 16th President of the Philippines. Duterte was elected after Benigno Aquino III and made very strong arguments while campaigning to become the President of the Philippines. During Duterte’s campaign, he threatened to “abolish Congress and set aside the courts” when he reached office of the President. This threat was “dismissed by others” during the campaign and people tried to look through his strong words and not take them seriously.
However, once Rodrigo Duterte was elected into office, everything became very real to these other political officials. Duterte was “the first anti-democratic demagogue to run as a presidential candidate” and he expressed his views very clearly for every citizen of the Philippines to hear. He often also called out people from other countries, such as Donald Trump and the Pope. It was no secret that Duterte was tired of the democratic system that the Philippines was under and Duterte believed that he could bring change to the country.
The Philippines became a democracy in 1986 under the Presidency of Maria Corazon Cojuangco Aquino, or Cory Aquino. Previously a dictatorship, the first female President of the Philippines successfully switched the government of the Philippines into a democracy. Then, deconsolidation began in 2001 under President Joseph Estrada and lasted until 2010 when consolidation was reached by Benigno Aquino III. However, this consolidation is now being threatened by the new President Duterte.
During his campaign, Duterte used democracy to become elected, then said that he “would not hesitate to change the democratic game and introduce a new game where he plays the dictator with the military and police behind him.” Using the military and the police, he can fully transition the Filipino government from a democracy to dictatorship. Duterte claims that the Philippines is not a safe place and until it is safe “this martial law will continue”.
During Duterte’s campaign, he use his populist actions to gain the respect of the political officials and the citizens of the Philippines. This respect allowed him to become elected and be trusted by many people in the country. So, Duterte can use this respect and trust to his advantage when making decisions for the country. However, this can become too powerful for himself and possibly hurt the Congress as a result. For example, if Duterte was accused of moving too slowly in the government or not getting anything done in office, he can use his trust and power to blame others. Since many democratic institutions were opposed to Duterte when he was running for President, he can “point his finger” at them for the speed of his reforms and destroy these democratic institutions. This, in turn, would continue the decline of democracy in the Philippines and promote democratic erosion.
If the trust between Duterte and officials and citizens continues, he may use his power to begin his change into a dictatorship and end all democratic institutions for not allowing his to make reforms and change the policies that have been set in place by previous Presidents of the Philippines. Many of his followers will promote this change and agree to the new policies that he proposes to the them. Since there are many Duterte followers, he will not have many problems gaining more attentions and more support to change the policies set in the government.
Also, since Duterte has the military on his side, he has the power to continue with democratic deconsolidation he has the capability to essentially end democracy in the Philippines. This has caused democracy to diminish due to the power that he holds over the people and the democratic institutions in the country. Also, because of this threat of getting rid of democracy and becoming a dictatorship, many people may just simply give up and not try to fight this possible catastrophic change.
However, even though the fact of a dictatorship may come during his presidency, he may have a tough time “maintaining” his power and the majority if he can not make any reform to the government. Also, the possibility of impeachment comes with some of his radical ideals and the actions that he takes when making reforms in the country. Many files have been filed against Duterte for his actions in the Presidency. However, many of these files have been thrown away because the complaints “lacked substance and should go no further” and this is because of the “leader’s steadfast legislative support”.
Duterte has been in office for about 2 years and he is constantly being closely monitored by Congress in the Philippines and also by other countries around the world. Especially when Duterte makes claims about Trump and the Pope, many countries keep an eye on Duterte to make sure he does not do a radical action to other countries for his power-hungry benefit.
The question for the Philippines now becomes, will Duterte succeed in becoming a dictator or will the Congress and opposing people restore the democracy in the Philippines and get Duterte impeached and removed from office?
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Heydarian, Richard Javad, et al. “Rodrigo Duterte’s Path to Dictatorship in the Philippines?”The National Interest, The Center for the National Interest, nationalinterest.org/blog/the-buzz/rodrigo-dutertes-path-dictatorship-the-philippines-20952.
Petty, Martin. “Philippine Panel Throws out Impeachment Complaint vs Duterte.” Reuters, Thomson Reuters, 15 May 2017, www.reuters.com/article/us-philippines-politics/philippine-panel-throws-out-impeachment-complaint-vs-duterte-idUSKCN18B0D4.
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