One Year Left

It is now the month of June 2021. This means that President Rodrigo Duterte has a year and a month left in his six-year term as the nation's leader. Having won the presidency in May 2016 and assumed the post on June 30, 2016, Duterte will hand over the reins of power to his successor at noon on June 30, 2022.

Five years into his six-year term, Duterte seems to continuously enjoy high approval and trust ratings among the majority of Filipinos. This is due to his no nonsense, authenticity- and results-oriented approach to governance, which he brought on a national scale after using it during his many years as Mayor of Davao City. His unorthodox and pragmatic way of doing things appeal to most Filipinos, who seem to have gotten tired of the mostly Manila-based or Luzon-based politicians from the intellectual and economic elite who say one thing but either does something different or does nothing at all. Duterte has set the bar of governance much higher than the political opposition is having a hard time pulling him down and even selecting a suitable candidate who will go up against the person whose candidacy for President he will be endorsing despite his profanity-laced or controversial statements.

Duterte won the 2016 elections on his anti-crime and anti-narcotics platform. The anti-drug and anti-crime campaign pursued relentlessly during his administration helped reduce crime, and make most neighborhoods and streets throughout the country peaceful. For the first time in years, Filipinos felt safer in their homes and communities, especially at night or while walking on the sidewalk. The same anti-crime and anti-narcotics campaign being pursued by the Duterte administration was used by critics to smear on the President, accusing him of allegedly encouraging "extrajudicial killings" of criminals and those involved in the narcotics trade, but such accusations fell on deaf ears, as the majority of Filipinos continue to support the President and the anti-crime and anti-drug drive.

The Duterte administration also saw the new "Golden Age of Infrastructure" in the country. For the first time since the administration of President Ferdinand Marcos, the Philippines embarked on a massive infrastructure building drive, dubbed as "Build! Build! Build!", with the goal of enhancing economic activity and development, and the flow of passenger and cargo traffic. "Build! Build! Build!" saw the opening of a network of new roads, railways, bridges, airports, seaports, harvest and postharvest facilities and other vital infrastructure, as well the construction of several others which were planned during the past administrations or new projects that were planned and launched during the presidency of Rodrigo Duterte.

With Filipinos seeing promises being fulfilled, and good results being delivered, President Duterte scored a major victory during the 2019 midterm elections. Candidates whom he endorsed or joined his coalition's slate won all of the open Senate seats, while the House of Representatives remained fully under the control of the administration coalition, although a tug-of-war for the position of House Speaker ensued between Alan Peter Cayetano and Lord Allan Velasco, prompting Duterte to intervene and find ways to settle their dispute. This was proof of the full support, trust and approval being enjoyed by President Rodrigo Duterte from the majority of Filipinos, and how his opponents and critics, especially those in the media, sorely lack in credibility and trustworthiness.

President Duterte is no stranger to dealing with major national crisis. In 2017, he was forced to cut short his visit to Russia after the Marawi siege erupted, with him leading the effort by the Armed Forces and the Police in winning against religious fundamentalists who occupied Marawi City and threatened to establish a theocracy in Mindanao. He even went to the front lines in Marawi to personally rally the troops and give comfort to the injured and the families of those who died. The government decisively won the battle in Marawi, effectively cementing President Duterte's image not only as an effective Commander-in-Chief but also as a father figure to soldiers and policemen who serve under him, and to Marawi residents who placed their hopes of having their homes liberated on him.

Since 2020, President Duterte has been at the forefront of the country's efforts in battling COVID-19, which, so far, has not only affected many Filipinos in terms of being downed by a disease caused by a constantly mutating unknown pathogen but also caused a large number of individuals to suffer economically due to lost job and business opportunities after the imposition of a series of lockdowns. The Duterte-led government response may not be perfect but it gets the job done, especially now that vaccination drive for COVID-19 is well underway and ways to safely re-open the economy and bring milliond of Filipinos back to work are being devised and implemented. The majority of Filipinos could see that Duterte and his administration are doing something to help the nation go through its toughest test since independence in 1946, which is perhaps the reason why the President is still very much a popular and trustworthy figure even during the latter part of his term.

Aside from his no nonsense, authenticity- and results-oriented approach to governance, what made President Duterte stand out as President is him institutionalizing pragmatism in governance, more specifically in the formulation and implementation of the country's foreign policy. Since the 2016 campaign, Duterte has been emphasizing on the pursuit of an independent foreign policy. He followed through on his campaign promise by shifting Philippine foreign policy to the middle from its old pro-Western stance, and pursuing rapprochement towards China instead of the belligerent position taken by the administration of Benigno Aquino III. Because of this,critics and opponent accused Duterte of being a sellout or being a China lackey without even fully understanding the benefits of having a pragmatism-based foreign policy. Duterte proved them wrong when the benefits of his independent foreign policy began showing up, especially during the Marawi Siege and the COVID-19 pandemic when China and Russia extended assistance to the Philippines. Duterte's pragmastism also lifted the Philippines' position on a global scale, making it a more active and more reliable member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and forging ties with non-traditional allies such as China, Russia and India while keeping close ties with traditional friends such as the United States, Japan, South Korea and the Western European countries.

 

The remaining one year and one month may seem to be too short for President Duterte and his administration given the gravity of the situation created by the COVID-19 pandemic and the need to prepare for the post-pandemic future, and the need to finish long overdue projects and accomplish badly needed reform measures. However, with his unorthodox and pragmatic approach to things, and his results-oriented nature, President Duterte is expected to make the most out of whatever amount of time left with his administration, making the job relatively easier for his successor in 2022, although the challenges left the pandemic and other pressing concerns will remain. A different type of and approach to leadership is President Duterte's legacy as the nation's leader, and expect him to leave office enjoying the high level of popularity, approval and trust that he currently enjoys, and remaining in the spotlight, perhaps in a different position.

 

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About the Author
Benedict is an agricultural economist, academician and writer. He has gained experience and expertise in various fields of economics, business, political science and public relations after through professional ventures in the academe, and in the public and private sectors. He has authored or co-authored key publications on topics ranging from agriculture and food security to global affairs and politics.
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