Philippines at risk of succumbing to dictatorship?



Anti-establishment firebrand Rodrigo Duterte secured a huge win in the Philippine presidential elections, according to a poll monitor on Tuesday (May 10), after an incendiary campaign dominated by his profanity-laced vows to kill criminals, AFP reports:

Duterte, the longtime mayor of the southern city of Davao, hypnotized millions with his vows of brutal but quick solutions to the nation’s twin plagues of crime and poverty, which many believed had worsened despite strong economic growth in recent years.

And after a record turnout of voters in Monday’s elections, Duterte scored a commanding victory, according to data released by the PPCRV, a Catholic Church-run poll monitor accredited by the government to tally the votes.

With an apparent increase in election-related human rights violations, an election watchdog said Monday that this year’s national and local polls appeared to be more violent than in recent elections. Rona Ann Caritos, executive director of the Legal Network for Truthful Elections (LENTE)*, said they have seen a spike in reports of election-related human rights violations:

As of 1:30 p.m., more than 230 cases of election-related offenses have already been reported to the monitoring center of Bantay Karapatan sa Halalan (BKH) at the main office of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR). CHR chairman Chito Gascon [right – a former Reagan-Fascell fellow at the National Endowment for Democracy] said they are still in the process of verifying the reports that their volunteers have monitored.

“These are raw reports, what we are doing is that we are verifying and validating,” he added.

The race for the vice president’s post was much tighter in Monday’s election. Latest results showed Ferdinand Marcos Jr, whose dictator father was ousted in 1986, holding onto a lead over Congresswoman Leni Robredo with about 60,000 votes, Bloomberg adds:

The prospect of a Duterte-Marcos administration will send shockwaves across the political establishment as it tries to come to grips with an unorthodox president and vice president who has made no strong attempt to distance himself from his father’s authoritarian rule, said Eufracia Taylor, an Asia analyst at risk consultancy Verisk Maplecroft.

“Duterte may well find that winning the election was the easy part,” she said. “The need to navigate the political elite in Manila and add substance to his grandiose promises is likely to prove the greatest challenge.”

Ramon Casiple, a political analyst and head of the Institute for Political and Electoral Reform, said Duterte is “a protest vote.”

“He is a symbol for the people. Nothing happened for many people in the past six years, and he has capitalized on his image as the folk hero here,” Casiple told CNN.

Duterte, a pugnacious 71-year-old, surged from outsider to the top of surveys with cuss-filled vows to kill tens of thousands of criminals, threats to establish one-man rule if lawmakers disobeyed him and promises to embrace communist rebels, AFP adds:

He also boasted repeatedly about his Viagra-fuelled affairs, while promising voters his mistresses would not cost a lot because he kept them in cheap boarding houses and took them to short-stay hotels for sex. Duterte caused further disgust in international diplomatic circles with a joke that he wanted to rape a “beautiful” Australian missionary who was killed in a 1989 Philippine prison riot, and by calling the pope a “son of a whore”.

Departing President Benigno Aquino, whose mother led the democracy movement that ousted Ferdinand Marcos three decades ago, had warned repeatedly the nation was at risk of succumbing to another dictatorship.

“I need your help to stop the return of terror in our land. I cannot do it alone,” Aquino said in an appeal to voters in a final rally on Saturday in Manila for Roxas, his preferred successor and fellow Liberal Party stalwart.

As a seven-term mayor, Duterte brought down the crime rate in Davao City, located on the southern island of Mindanao, as The Two-Way has reported. But NPR’s Camila Domonoske added:

“Human rights groups have accused Duterte of permitting or encouraging death squads to conduct extrajudicial killings of hundreds of perceived petty criminals.

“Duterte has variously denied and confirmed ordering execution-style street killings, but he has consistently said crime should be punished with death.”

LENTE is a grantee of the National Endowment for Democracy.

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