Duterte presidency unravels as coronavirus ravages Philippines


It has been 4 years since Rodrigo Duterte took his oath as president of the Philippines, railing towards the “erosion of faith and trust in government”, whereas using on a populist wave by promising “real change” and “transparency” to the nation of greater than 100 million individuals.

But as he enters his final two years in workplace on Tuesday, Duterte’s management has confirmed hole, analysts have stated, including that his dealing with of the persevering with coronavirus pandemic has uncovered his lack of great coverage, leaving many Filipinos to fend for themselves even because the economic system faces its most severe problem in many years.

From his struggle on medicine that killed 1000’s, to the lethal siege by ISIL-inspired fighters within the metropolis of Marawi, and the present well being emergency that already contaminated 36,000 individuals and killed greater than 1,250 others, Duterte has relied on “militarist” approach to each main disaster he confronted, even when it’s not working, observers added.

Sonny Africa, govt director of the unbiased think-tank, IBON Foundation, stated fixing the political and financial injury that Duterte has wrought within the final 4 years “is already a daunting task”.

“It’s scary what another two years will do,” Africa advised Al Jazeera, as he warned that the Philippines “is in the worst crisis of joblessness and collapsing household incomes in its history”.

Africa, a London School of Economics-trained growth knowledgeable, stated that as a substitute of addressing primary fiscal and financial reforms – similar to social safety, free land distribution and the reversal of a “regressive” tax system – Duterte’s financial managers are persevering with with enterprise as ordinary.

“The government’s policies are not working because the self-serving political agenda and interests of economic elites are given priority over rational public health and socioeconomic relief,” he stated.

If something, the president “is opportunistically exploiting the pandemic” in advancing a political and financial agenda that reveals “undue bias” for large enterprise, cronies and international traders, Africa added.

Duterte has defended his insurance policies by saying that he’s “looking after the welfare” of the Filipinos, and telling them to “stop blaming the government, because the coronavirus is already here.”

He additionally stated that he’ll “bet his reputation” that there are not any anomalies within the authorities’s dealing with of the well being disaster.

Hollow populism

Richard Heydarian, a Manila-based political science professor and analyst, famous that the pandemic “has exposed the hollowness of right-wing populism”, citing Duterte for example, whereas evaluating him to US President Donald Trump and Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro.

The US and Brazil lead the world in each confirmed instances and fatalities.

“If you look at the worst cases around the world … all of these countries have been under the spell of one form of populism or another,” he advised Al Jazeera.

In the case of the Philippines, the unfold of the illness, also called COVID-19, had been a “double-edged sword” for Duterte, stated Heydarian, who’s writer of the e book, The Rise of Duterte – A Populist Revolt Against Elite Democracy.

Overseas Filipino workers - Duterte

Before the pandemic and the ensuing lockdown, about 81 p.c of individuals surveyed stated that they had been happy with the Duterte administration [File: Mark R Cristino/EPA] 

In late January, some well being consultants and the opposition, together with Vice President Leni Robredo, had been urging Duterte to instantly impose a travel ban of tourists from the Chinese metropolis of Wuhan, the place the an infection was first reported.

Even after the primary coronavirus dying outdoors China was reported within the Philippines on February 2, Duterte resisted ordering flight restrictions, saying it might injury Manila’s diplomatic ties with Beijing. He additionally joked that he would “slap the coronavirus” within the face.

A travel ban was solely imposed in mid-March, alongside a digital nationwide lockdown that affected the livelihood of thousands and thousands of Filipinos. A nationwide well being emergency was additionally declared.

‘Authoritarian blitzkrieg’

While these delays undermined Duterte’s portrayal of himself “as a decisive and effective leader”, the pandemic has offered the president with “the leeway and legal emergency powers” to launch an “authoritarian blitzkrieg”, in response to Heydarian. 

He famous that the closure of ABS-CBN, the nation’s largest media community, in addition to the cyber-libel conviction of Rappler journalist and govt editor, Maria Ressa, occurred simply months after Duterte secured emergency powers to cope with the unfold of the coronavirus.

“Clearly, we see the populists, particularly in fledgeling democracies like the Philippines, exploiting and leveraging the ongoing emergency situation to muzzle and intimidate the opposition and voices in independent media,” Heydarian stated.

Before the coronavirus lockdown, nevertheless, a minimum of 81 p.c of survey respondents stated that they had been happy with the administration of President Duterte, in response to the polling agency, Social Weather Station.

Arrest - Philippines

According to the police, greater than 61,000 individuals had been arrested within the Philippines in the course of the lockdown imposed to curb the unfold of the coronavirus [File: Mark R Cristino/EPA]

But Heydarian warned an impending dip within the economic system as a result of pandemic might “seriously hurt” Duterte’s standing among the many public.

Africa of IBON Foundation, one of many oldest non-profit analysis organisations within the Philippines, stated “the militarist response” of the Duterte administration “bolsters its authoritarianism”.

It was additionally in the course of the lockdown that the allies of the president in Congress managed to push by means of the anti-terror invoice, which permits warrantless arrests and longer detentions with out cost. Critics have warned that it might be exploited by the federal government to go after its critics.

“The Duterte watch has seriously damaged accustomed institutions of liberal democracy,” Africa stated, including that “checks and balances are almost gone”.

‘An enormous fail’

Nowhere is the unravelling of Duterte’s coverage extra obvious than within the southern metropolis of Marawi, which got here below siege by armed fighters that pledged allegiance to the ISIL (ISIS) group in 2017, stated Drieza Abato Lininding, a Marawi neighborhood chief.

He stated greater than three years after the assault, tens of 1000’s of individuals stay displaced and are unable to return to their houses regardless of the president’s repeated guarantees. Marawi can be now struggling to comprise the unfold of coronavirus in evacuation camps.

Lininding pronounced Duterte’s insurance policies as a “big fail”, regardless of the passage of the Bangsamoro autonomous authorities, saying that “the poor are getting poorer, and some of those well-to-do families are suffering as well.”

Marawi -

Three years after the siege, tens of 1000’s of Marawi residents stay in refugee camps, which at the moment are struggling to comprise the unfold of the coronavirus [File: Linus Escandor II/EPA]

“Corruption is rampant, and worst not only in Moro areas, but in the whole island of Mindanao,” he advised Al Jazeera.

He stated among the many “bad legacies” left by Duterte is his “too much pampering and relying on the military and police that lead to abuses”.

In a press release to Al Jazeera, Cristina Palabay, secretary basic of the activist group Karapatan (Right), stated that Duterte’s 4 years in energy has ben “an epidemic of State terrorism, blatant injustice and gross rights violations.”

On Monday, Harry Roque, the palace spokesman, defended Duterte saying that within the second of a well being emergency, the president has one one message – “Stop politics”, including that the federal government is “doing its best” to deal with to state of affairs.

‘Hard to restore’

Even after Duterte has accomplished together with his time period as president – within the Philippines, the president is allowed to serve solely a single time period – Africa of IBON Foundation, is worried in regards to the issues which may be left behind, together with a document quantity of debt.

“The government was set to borrow a record 1.4 trillion pesos ($26.1bn) in 2020 even before the pandemic. If anything, COVID-19 even gives it a convenient cover for this,” he stated.

Africa famous that majority of the borrowing is for infrastructure initiatives which are “unlikely to be financially and economically viable, amid the changed conditions of pandemic-driven recessions”.

“Its so-called ‘recovery programme’ is a mere recycling of the same economic policies before the pandemic and are more inappropriate than ever.”

“The dependence on debt to drive the economy was questionable before and is only more so now.”