Political scientists give budding 'authoritarian’ Duterte low marks
MANILA, Philippines – A panel of political science experts and professors gave President Rodrigo Duterte a score of 5 out of 10 for his first two years as the country’s chief executive.
The panel of experts, led by former University of the Philippines political science department chairman Temario Rivera, gave this grade during a forum on Friday, July 20. Hosted by the Center for People Empowerment in Governance (CenPEG), the forum sought to assess Duterte’s governance in time for his State of the Nation Address on Monday, July 23.
Rivera said this low grade was because of Duterte’s increasingly heavy-handed moves when it comes to dissent and criticism, particularly for his banner policies.
“I think what was common was a major concern that Duterte’s style of leadership is increasingly getting more authoritarian and such a system might provoke deeper divisions and polarizations in our country,” Rivera told Rappler.
He and his co-panelists pointed to Duterte’s insistence on the shift to federalism even if a majority of Filiipinos are opposed to it.
“Politically, this has been manifested by the moves to fast-track federalism which, to begin with, there is no public clamor for that and now there is talk of ‘no-el’ (no elections),” said Rivera.
“You combine that with problems about the economy, inflation and the like, all this seem to be creating increasingly an atmosphere of instability about the immediate future,” he added.
He also explained that the rating of 5 was also given in consideration of how high Duterte had set the bar for himself, and the corresponding realities of how those promises were fulfilled.
“I think partly also of the initial expectation. Remember that he has promised a lot of things, just to mention a few, solving the drug problem in 6 months, to one year, now it’s been two years. Our point here is precisely that the President…seems to have adopted a very simplistic approach to very complex problems,” said Rivera.
Another of Duterte’s policies that are inviting doubt into his presidency and governance style is his policy towards China and the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).
Pulse Asia Research, Incorporated and Social Weather Stations surveys have shown that most Filipinos think the Duterte administration should do more to assert its rights over the West Philippine Sea, a body of water being claimed by China, Duterte’s new “friend.”
“We think that he should have gone out of his way also to solicit a wider base of consensus on the best way to approach it (China policy),” said Rivera.
While the forum’s experts gave Duterte failing marks, the President's public satisfaction and trust ratings show he still enjoys a high level of popularity. (READ: Duterte in surveys: After two years, honeymoon persists)
Rivera acknowledged this and identified 4 factors that explain Duterte’s persistent honeymoon with most Filipinos.
“One is the local culture and our political history have shown a tolerance for strong authoritarian leaders, all the way from Quezon under the American colonial era to, of course, our experience under Marcos,” he said.
Poverty, unemployment, and armed conflict have also led Filipinos to seek leaders who could bring make “quick-fix solutions.”
“When you’re looking for a quick fix solution, the normal response would be a strong leader. That also could explain why historically, the average Filipino would have a tendency to give leeway to those kinds of excesses,” said Rivera.
While Duterte enjoys popularity now, the eminent political science scholar said there are limits for all leaders and presidencies, particularly when Filipinos “realize there is no significant improvement in their lives” during his term.
“Political instability” is also one outcome of Duterte’s supposed authoritarian tendencies that could make Filipinos reconsider their support for him. – Rappler.com