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?
Ott, Tim. “Rodrigo Duterte.” Biography.com, A&E Networks Television, 13 Nov. 2017, www.biography.com/people/rodrigo-duterte-102616.
Pilapil, Gene Lacza. “Democracy in the Time of Duterte.” Inquirer Opinion Democracy in the Time of Duterte Comments, 17 May 2016, opinion.inquirer.net/94777/democracy-time-duterte.
Estanislao, Jesus P. “Transition to Democracy: the Philippine Experience.” Inquirer Business Transition to Democracy the Philippine Experience Comments, 21 Nov. 2011, business.inquirer.net/31345/transition-to-democracy-the-philippine-experience.
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.
Photo by Martin Petty Reuters/Creative Commons Zero license
JARRON DANIEL SILVA
Great post! It was very interesting to see the difference between the Philippines (your post) and China (mine), where the Philippines are becoming a dictatorship and China was trying to become a democracy.
In reading this post, several times my mind went immediately to the American President, Donald Trump. It is easy to see the parallels as the American people did not take Trump’s words to heart when voting for him, claiming he was simply amplifying his beliefs to win over voters.
As a result, one year into his administration, Trump is wreaking havoc within the White House and within the American government. This phenomenon of not taking the leaders’ words at face value has let to the gradual rise of extremist far right groups throughout the world. People are choosing these unstable individuals as an act of desperation and rebellion against a system that has previously failed to represent their needs. It is scary to think that one wrong, bad leader can actually destroy a democracy that was created with tremendous sacrifice and struggle by the people of that country.
JOSHUA ANTHONY VARELA
Duterte’s comments, which were brushed aside by the majority of people during his campaign, are the first indication that democracy could be eroding in the Philippines. The fact that he was voted into office while using this type of language is concerning, even if many Filipinos didn’t take him seriously. In some ways, this mirrors the election of Donald Trump in the United States. Americans didn’t take his language use seriously and many wrote him off as a joke candidate. Although Trump utilizes more dog-whistle politics and not outright-dictatorial language like Duterte, the comparison between both candidates is clear. The difference here, I think, is that the United States is a more stable democracy. Up until this point, the checks and balance that the United States provides has kept President Trump from becoming too anti-democratic, although his language use against the media certainly has hurt its reputation among his followers. Duterte has already begun killing alleged drug dealers without due process – a serious harm to democracy in the Philippines. I would not be surprises if further breakdown of democratic institutions continued under his regime in the near future.
RICHARD JARET TEIJEIRO
Great post. I found it rather enlightening and informative of the events transpiring within the Filipino nation. President Duterte shows all the signs of a democratically elected official turned dictator, and your post brings this fact to light in a professional, effective way. The main concept I focused on throughout the article was the fact that Duterte never backed down in his assertion that he would use the power of the police and military to enforce his policies and retain control of the country. This appears to be a huge contribution to the erosion of democracy in the Philippines. The police control aspect of Duterte’s regime reminds me of my blog post, which analyzes the state control imposed by the Venezuelan regime. they are similar in that both regimes effectively use the military and police to maintain their position of power and quell opposition. I do believe that your inference that this process of democratic backsliding can be prevented was correct because the country is not so far down the path that they cannot recover. With the support of the people, another more democratic leader can challenge Duterte’s leadership and eventually begin the transition back to democracy. Great post, I enjoyed the implications you discussed.
JAKE ETHAN HIRABAYASHI
While reading this post this quote really stood out to me, “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”. This quote stood out to me because I would ask if Duterte cares what the international community even thinks about his actions? An example of him disregarding the wishes of the international community is when he decided to remove the Philippines from the ICC, in order to reduce his level of accountability for his war on drugs. Also, his comments towards Donald Trump (or the US in general) have to do with his drifting away from the US and towards China and Russia. He is literally stepping away from democracy and towards nondemocratic states. His remarks to the Pope also highlight his agenda. The Philippines is dominated by Catholicism. His remarks about the leader of Catholicism highlights his lack of respect for his own popularity within the Philippines. This was a great point to include in your post when exposing the eroding democracy in the Philippines. Duterte does not feel that he needs the support of the majority of the Philippines. He has the support of the military and the police which gives him the power to control the population. This post highlights how Duterte managed to remove accountability from the people and from international actors. The Philippines is definitely experiencing democratic backslide, which is unfortunate because there was a push for democratic consolidation prior to Duterte’s election in 2016. Elections are a great institution because it gives the people power to hold the executive accountable, but it also creates a situation where new leaders do not continue the policies of the previous one. In this case that was detrimental to the democratic consolidation within the Philippines.
KEVIN ANDREW KENDALL
Your argument that Duterte is blaming democratic institutions for his policies not being passed is backed up with great information. It’s very intriguing how he has the military and police behind him and how he’s trying to become a dictator. Great job on explaining how he uses populist characteristics.
ISAIAH JAMES HOLMES
This is a good example of the trade offs that voters face when voting for a populist. The candidate can show less democracy and still get he same support due to the willingness of voters to go against their party. They want to make sure that they views are represented as well and they have fallen into the idea that only this candidate can make that change for them. Also I would like to ask what are the views of his party and why there was not more “gate keeping”. If the party knew that he had this radical idea, why didn’t they stop him before he had the opportunity to polarize the masses. I am not very educated in this particular country’s politics but in general his party should take over this gatekeeper mentality. overall I do not believe the rest of the world would let this democracy backslide due to the involvement
ANAIS XITLALI LOPEZ
I found your article very interesting and insightful given that he is able to do so much despite the constitutional parameters set in place. Although I do not know much about the government in the Philippines or about Duterte, I find it odd that he would be criticizing Donald Trump so heavily given they seem to have the same ideologies and are both being monitored by their own congresses. Given that Duterte still has 4 years left in his term, I believe there are going to have to be, as you point out, a close monitoring of the president in order to keep the legitimacy of the president. It is likely that people will be more fearful to stand up against his regime, should it decided to attempt to take over, because he has the military on his side. Still, it will be interesting to see if they stay with him down the line. I would argue that if he continues to use his populist rhetoric, he may be able to gain more of the support of the poor citizens and may be able to get farther along with his plan. This is especially likely as he rand under the idea of dismantling congress. However, it will be interesting to see if and how the world responds to this and the effect that it will have on the country on a national stage.