The Philippines' Duterte: In pursuit of an imperial presidency


The Philippines' Duterte: In pursuit of an imperial presidency

3 June 2019

By Richard Javad Heydarian

Although President Rodrigo Duterte's name was not on the ballot in the May 13 midterm elections in the Philippines, the vote served as a referendum on his disruptive and unorthodox leadership.

Over the past three years, the controversial Filipino leader has defied practically every political convention and general public decorum. To the utter shock of even his closest aides, he has insulted the Catholic faith, cussed at American leaders, openly embraced China as a "friend", and unleashed a scorched-earth drug war that has claimed the lives of thousands of people.

The democratic opposition sought to leverage the elections to check Duterte's worst instincts. Instead, they suffered their greatest electoral defeat in recent history, setting the stage for an imperial presidency with potentially dire consequences for Philippine democracy.

Duterte's allies won a significant part of the 18,000 elected offices up for grabs in municipal, city, provincial and legislative races across the country. Most crucially, they secured a supermajority in both the House of Representatives and the Senate.