Known for taking the “good crook is dead crook” policy to its ultimate consequences, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, 76, is expected to run for Vice President in next year’s elections in a move that has been seen as much as an attempt to stay in power beyond what the law allows or avoid facing investigations for human rights violations.
The assessment is from Philippine analysts heard by sheet, but the agent himself does not make a point of hiding his intentions. “The law says that if you’re vice president, you have immunity. So I’m just going to run for vice president,” Duterte said at his party’s convention in July.
While there is debate over whether the deputy has the same legal prerogatives as the president, observers and political opponents say the real intention is to evade investigations by death squads that summarily execute drug dealers and drug users.
In its war on drugs policy, more than 8,000 users and traffickers have already been killed, according to official figures — projections by human rights organizations show that the number of people murdered exceeds 25,000. The president’s name appears in investigations into a death squad that has operated since the 1990s in Davao, the city of which he was mayor and which is now governed by one of his daughters, Sara.
During the Duterte government, the number of people arrested broke historic records. The official homicide figure also exploded in the first year of his term, after the president took office encouraging tough police actions against users and traffickers, but it dropped again in the following years.
With a Supreme Court that generally makes decisions favorable to the government, the president could face more serious problems than local trials, as his drug war policy is investigated by the International Criminal Court. The legitimacy of this investigation, however, is questioned by Duterte, as he removed the Philippines from the list of countries that make up the court.
Another issue for the president is pandemic management, especially after the impact of the delta variant has led to an explosion in the number of cases and deaths from Covid. Only 11% of the population has been fully immunized, and 6% is partially vaccinated. In Brazil, these numbers are 34% and 32%, respectively.
Although Duterte is widely criticized by the international community, this does not affect his domestic popularity. It was rated highly by 91% of the country’s population according to Pulse Asia, a leading local research institute.
Professor of political science at the University of the Philippines, Jean Encinas-Franco says the president’s approval is high “despite the drug war and the muddle of the response to the pandemic” because Duterte presents himself “as a normal guy, the father of the nation that protects families from drug dealers and addicts.”
“These are powerful projections that resonate across a broad segment. Drug addiction is highly stigmatized among Filipinos, and Duterte’s drug war, despite reports of extrajudicial killings, leaves the population more at ease,” he says.
Cleve Arguelles, a Filipino who researches Southeast Asian populism and politics, says the anti-drug discourse has stuck so much that even moderate pre-candidates have included a rigid stance on the topic in their proposals — albeit with less violence.
“Despite undermining democracy and human rights, Duterte remains popular. He has supported the motto of ‘order above the law’ since winning elections in 2016. Many are convinced that he has fulfilled his campaign promise to make the streets well. safer.”
For Encinas-Franco, “the recent decision to run for Vice President is one of the toughest challenges to the gains that democracy has had since the deposition of [Ferdinando] Marcos,” he says, referring to the dictator who held power between 1965 and 1986.
Marcos’ son, by the way, former senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., is expected to run for president in 2022 — he ran for vice in the last election and lost by less than 1 percentage point.
Sara Duterte, daughter of the current president, is also listed, which would extend the family’s command in the country’s government. So far, however, she has said she does not intend to run. “I want to see the continuity of my efforts. Even if it’s not me giving the direction, maybe I can just help,” said the president last week.
The race for vice president in the country takes place independently of the election for president. In other words, the population chooses the occupant of each post, not the ticket, which allows the two elected to be even from rival groups.
Elevated to the presidency in 2016 as a foul outsider with a strong discourse on public safety, like the Brazilian Jair Bolsonaro, Duterte fulfills the “bingo card” of populist politicians with 21st century fascist characteristics, in the assessment of historian Federico Finchelstein, professor of the New School for Social Research.
The Filipino anchors political discourse in racism and xenophobia; uses violence as a political tool and militarizes government; has the lie as a central tool and defends the dictatorship. “In Duterte, everything is more explicit. His admiration for fascism, his praise for violence, his lies. All of this causes long-term damage to democracy,” he says.