Commentary: Extraordinary Rodrigo Duterte will now face ordinary pressures

Commentary: Extraordinary Rodrigo Duterte will now face ordinary pressures

Much focus has been cast on the peculiarities of the Filipino’s presidency. But he may face his greatest challenge to date, says the ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute’s Malcolm Cook.

SINGAPORE: Much of the analysis of the Duterte presidency has focused on what makes it extraordinary.

Duterte benefitted from what appeared to be extraordinarily high approval and trust ratings across all geographical and demographic sub-groups.

In his first year in the presidential palace, Duterte had net satisfaction ratings averaging just over 64 per cent and even higher net trust ratings according to quarterly Social Weather Stations’ polling.

Duterte came to power with a uniquely wide and diverse coalition of support spanning the militant left, Mindanao’s main insurgency groups and Christian settler community, the wealthy classes and the Marcos dynasty.

He has also ruled with seemingly pliant super-majorities in both houses of Congress.

Duterte has attacked a large array of leading politicians, government institutions and major social institutions deemed unsupportive of his political agenda, particularly his deadly war on drugs.

Targets include leading media companies, the Catholic Church, the Commission on Human Rights, the chief justice of the Supreme Court, the ombudsman, the vice-president and the Liberal Party.


Yet, recent signs on each of these counts suggest that Rodrigo Duterte is starting to face the ordinary pressures post-Marcos presidents have faced.

The Social Weather Stations’ poll released last weekend show the first significant drop in approval and trust ratings for Duterte.

His net approval rating fell from just over 66 per cent in June to just over 48 per cent in September, with decreases across all geographic and almost all demographic sub-groups.

Duterte’s polling numbers and their trajectory for the first 15 months of his presidency are actually very similar to his predecessors.

Now, his coalition of support is becoming less diverse and less pliable.

The militant left have withdrawn from his coalition and are returning to their normal opposition function.

The Senate does not support the return of the death penalty or lowering the age of criminal responsibility to nine.

Sixteen of 23 sitting senators recently signed a resolution questioning the conduct of the war on drugs.

Targets of Duterte’s political attacks are also pushing back.

The Catholic Church is organising nationwide protests and offering safe haven to police officers who want to speak out against the war on drugs.

Major media outlets targeted are showing no signs of wavering.

Rodrigo Duterte’s personalistic, bombastic and divisive approach to the presidency will make facing these ordinary political pressures more challenging, auguring badly for the remainder of his administration.

Dr Malcolm Cook is senior fellow at the ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute. This commentary first appeared in ISEAS Commentaries. Read the original commentary here.

Source: CNA/sl