Five Reasons Why President Duterte was the Ultimate Winner

Political scientist Richard Javad Heydarian & President Rodrigo Duterte (CTTO)
Richard Javad Heydarian, a professional writer, political scientist and a specialist on Asian geopolitics and economic affairs, believes that President Rodrigo Duterte was indeed the Ultimate Winner in 2017.

In one of his writings, Heydarian assessed that Pres. Duterte topped the current year on a high note, gathering the approval of 4 out of 5 Filipinos in the most recent Pulse Asia and Social Weather Stations (SWS) reviews.

As per Heydarian, PRRD viably weakened whatever inversions he endured in past surveys recovering his support from the poorest of poor Filipinos, to the school graduates, males, and those in the later-youth-to-middle-age run.

Also according to him, those high approval ratings put President Duterte in front of his precursors, including Benigno Aquino III. He also believes that PRRD can end his term in office in 2022 with the most elevated endorsement rating ever.

He stated that President Duterte figured out how to keep up, as well as develop his political capital this year. And as he would see it, there are Five Reasons behind this, mirroring the president's uncanny capacity to transform emergency and test into circumstance and profits.

Below is his commentary as to why President Rodrigo Duterte is considered the ultimate winner for 2017.

"President Rodrigo Duterte capped this year on a high note, garnering the support of 4 out of 5 Filipinos in the latest Pulse Asia and Social Weather Stations (SWS) surveys.

He effectively eviscerated whatever reversals he suffered in previous surveys, regaining his support base among the poorest of poor Filipinos (Class E), the college graduates, males, and those in the later-youth-to-middle-age range (35-44 years old).

Sure, as historical data shows, Philippine leaders tend to enjoy relatively high approval ratings in their first years in office, reflecting the patience and good will of the broader electorate. As in tropical romance, periods of political honeymoon tend to also be extended in places such as the Philippines.

Yet, even by Philippine standards, Duterte enjoys high approval ratings. Only President Fidel Ramos, who oversaw an economic renaissance and rapid political consolidation in his earlier years in office, managed to maintain a higher approval rating at this stage in his presidency.

This puts Duterte ahead of his immediate predecessors, including Benigno Aquino III, who ended his six-years term in office with one of the highest satisfaction ratings among any democratically-elected-leader-on-the-way-out on earth. Maybe, Duterte can end his term in office in 2022 with the highest approval rating ever, but a lot can still happen in the next four years.

For now, it seems the Filipino people have also ended the year on a highly optimistic note. Once again, this could be a reflection of Filipino people’s inherently resilient psychological outlook, but one can’t deny the fact that Duterte’s leadership may have played a role too. This is largely because majority of Filipinos seem to find some element of confidence and solace in the commander-in-chief’s decisive brand of leadership, notwithstanding deepening concerns over human rights and the state of democracy in the country, not to mention the disconcerting drop in newly-incoming Foreign Direct Investments (FDIs), which fell by 90 percent in the first half of this year.

One thing we can’t deny, however, is that Duterte managed to not only maintain, but also deepen his political capital this year. In my opinion, there are five reasons for this, reflecting the president’s uncanny ability to turn crisis and challenge into opportunity and dividends.

1. From crisis to power - First one is the Marawi crisis. At first glance, the five-months-long siege of the country’s largest Muslim-majority city should have dramatically undermined Duterte’s political capital. After all, he ran on the platform of not only ending the supposed scourge of drugs in the country, but also bringing about peace and prosperity to Mindanao. He also presented himself as a decisive “man of action”, who will bring about safety and security to ordinary “law abiding citizens”. And yet, a bunch of ragtag radicals managed to preposition large caches of weapons across strategic sectors of Marawi, build a large network of underground tunnels, and, eventually, even lay a months-long siege on the whole city.

Yet, far from undermining his popularity, Duterte managed to rally the nation behind his administration and, with massive popular support, abruptly decided to declare martial law across the entire Mindanao for what increasingly looks like an indefinite period. Overtime, the president also openly danced with the idea of a nationwide martial law, which gained traction in places such as Visayas, though not much in Luzon and Metro-Manila. The overall effect was further strengthening Duterte’s executive powers, paving the way for an imperial presidency.

2. The Philippines in strategic sweet spot - The second major source of political capital was the president’s rotational chairmanship of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). Sure, Duterte came under criticism for his apparent decision to soft-pedal on thorny regional concerns such as the South China Sea disputes and the Rohingya humanitarian crisis in Myanmar. He has also been critized for alienating allies, particularly in the West, due to his supposed undiplomatic rhetoric and colorful rhetorical spats with traditional allies.

But he nonetheless scored major diplomatic points by courting the favor of all major powers, including Russia, China and the United States under President Donald Trump, who held cordial and constructive talk with Duterte on the sidelines of the ASEAN summits. The overall effect of the ASEAN summit was to highlight the emergence of Duterte as a major regional powerbroker, with the Philippines placed in a seeming “strategic sweet spot”. This didn’t escape the attention of Filipino people, who proudly watched their country becoming, albeit momentarily, the center of the political universe, as world leaders descended upon Manila in November this year.

3. Turning a new page in drug war (at least for now) - A major likely cause behind Duterte’s declining approval ratings in previous surveys was growing opposition to Tokhang operations under the Philippine National Police (PNP). The gruesome death of several teenagers, most especially Kian delos Santos, provoked major public backlash not against the drug war per se, which remain popular, but the method by which it has been waged.

In response, Duterte personally apologized to the family of Kian and promised them justice, suspended the Tokhang operations, and designated the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) as the lead agency to handle the drug war. As a result, Duterte managed to not only keep a simmering public backlash at bay, but also communicate his willingness to make necessary adjustments, which seems to have won back the masses, who have been at the receiving end of the bulk of reported extrajudicial killings. Nonetheless, one shouldn’t be surprised if Duterte resuscitates the Tokhang operations and once again places the PNP in charge of the drug war.

4. Strengthened allies - It isn’t only Duterte, but also his allies seem to be gaining public traction. Based on the latest SWS survey, Senator Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel is now enjoying among the highest approval ratings enjoyed by any legislator in Philippine history. Overall, the approval ratings of both the Senate (+56) and the House of Representatives (+43) are the highest on record. This means that Duterte can rely on loyal supporters in the legislator, who have backed him up on every major issue, who happen to also be increasingly buoyant and popular. This means, Duterte can look forward to a year of even greater cooperation with the other pillar of the state.

5. Passed key legislations - The Duterte administration also managed to finalize the budget for the upcoming year and, thanks to the assistance of its allies, put into law major reforms, especially the mega Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) bill, which aims to overall not only the country’s fiscal edifice, but overall economic momentum. To many investors as well as ordinary citizens, this signals the seriousness of the administration address major structural economic concerns, which have hobbled the realization of the country’s great potentials.

Starting next year, the administration is likely to push ahead, in full force, with the “Dutertenomics” agenda, which entails massive projects that aim to overhaul the country’s decrepit public infrastructure. And as surveys show, economics – rather than drugs and criminality -- is the primary concern of ordinary Filipinos. This means, Duterte will have to further diversify his policy agenda and pay more attention to “build, build, build” rather than “drugs, drugs, drugs” alone."

Source: GMA

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