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The Duterte Presidency So Far—Pass or Fail?

Screen-grab of a President Duterte news conference on TV.

t is now readily apparent that President Rodrigo Duterte’ management style is a far cry from that of former President Benigno Aquino III. If Aquino was the cautious and measured type, Duterte appears to be the stir-up-the-pot type of guy. And it doesn’t matter if he is mouthing out at a small-town mayor of some far-flung city in the Philippines, or the president of the United States. It’s all the same to him. And so far Duterte has managed to hurl insults at Pope Francis, President Obama, and the EU leadership, just to name a few.

From his latest pronouncement, he says he also has no problem cozying up to China and Russia and turning his back on the West. Duterte says he will be visiting China soon to ask the Chinese to allow Filipino Fishermen access to parts of the West Philippine Sea that they now control; which by the way also happen to fall inside the Philippines’ Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). According to the UN Arbitral Tribunal in the Hague, those areas actually belong to the Philippines and not to China.

International rating agencies are beginning to express concern with the Duterte Administration’s “War on Drugs” and the way it is being implemented.

On the local front, the president’s supporters have gone after local as well as foreign members of the media who have said or written things critical of Duterte or his administration. Opposition senators like Senator Leila De Lima are also finding that they face stiff opposition at every turn when they get on the wrong side of the president or members of his administration.

From Duterte’s point of view, it appears that he is trying his best to stick to the time schedule he promised during the presidential campaign, to rid the country of drugs and corruption within three to six months. And the last thing he needs now is an opposition to slow him down or gum-up the works and prevent him from accomplishing those lofty goals. Duterte has to show results—and soon—if he is to retain his high approval rating and the overwhelming support of his base.

So far it is a tossup.  Or is it? His detractors say Duterte has overstepped the line numerous times and can be accused of committing human rights violations. Hs supporters on the other hand say what he is doing exactly what the country must do if it is ever to rid itself of the twin scourges of drugs and corruption that have stymied the country’s development, and institutionalized the great disparity between the few haves and the vast majority of have nots. So what do you think? Where does President Duterte stand today? Published 9/17/2016

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