Thrilla in Manila

The Promise and Peril of Duterte's First Three Months

Duterte poses with Philippine soldiers, August 2016. Erik De Castro / Reuters

Three months into office, Rodrigo Duterte, the newly minted president of the Philippines, enjoys unparalleled political influence. By some indicators, he is the most powerful Filipino leader since the Ferdinand Marcos dictatorship ended three decades ago. Duterte, moreover, is in a unique position to overhaul the country’s domestic political landscape, as well as its foreign policy. 

Duterte was elected in May as a tough-talking outsider who astutely tapped into the anti-establishment sentiment of the Philippine electorate. Since then, he has rapidly consolidated power. Although he hails from a relatively minor political party (PDP-Laban), Duterte now enjoys supermajority support in the Philippine Congress, where his allies have seamlessly marginalized any voice of opposition. Over the next few years, he is set to appoint 11 of 15 justices at the Philippine Supreme Court, and his so-called shock and awe campaign against illegal drugs has raised his standing with the Philippines’ law enforcement agencies.

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