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Duterte, the Filipino Strongman

What Rodrigo Duterte's Election Says About the Philippines

Rodrigo Duterte, Philippine presidential candidate and a local mayor, raises his fist during a motorcade campaign at Cainta Rizal, east of Manila April 12, 2016. Romeo Ranoco / Reuters

On May 9, the Philippines elected Rodrigo Duterte, the controversial and tough-talking mayor of Davao City, to be its next president. Thanks to rhetoric that resembled that of a U.S. presidential candidate, the Filipino elite and international media took to calling Duterte the “Donald Trump of the East.” Duterte was a political outsider only a few months ago and had a slim chance of even remaining in the tight presidential race. But economic dissatisfaction, rising crime rates, and popular frustration catapulted his fringe candidacy to victory.

Duterte comes from the margins of the Philippines’ ruling establishment. To win the election, he had to confront a formidable set of rivals with superior political machinery, resources, and family ties. But in the end, Filipinos gravitated toward Duterte’s strongman aura and uncompromising rhetoric against crime, drugs, and corruption. Duterte’s bluster may have helped him get elected, but now he must deal

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