On May 30, 2016 Manila’s parliament appointed Rodrigo Roa Duterte as the sixteenth president of the Philippines following his election victory over rival Mar Roxas with over seven million votes. Born in Maasin 71 years ago, Duterte has had a long career in public administration, having served as mayor of Davao city for more than 22 years with seven mandates. Duterte’s electoral marathon was a real triumph resulting from the anti-establishment sentiment increasingly widespread among the world’s population. The sharp contrast Duterte represented from the ruling political class in Manila secured him the unexpected victory.
A fundamental aspect, linked to the success that has accompanied the new president, regards the election program. Its four main pillars are simple and effective:
– Fighting drug dealers and petty crime (a plague that is devouring the nation);
– Independent and advantageous foreign policy for Manila (not putting Washington’s interests first);
– Fostering conditions necessary for a rapid and sustainable economic recovery;
– Eradication of the terrorist organisation Abu Sayyaf.
Following Duterte’s victory, we have witnessed growing tension between Manila and Washington. Predictably, Duterte’s four points openly go against Washington’s strategic objectives in the region. The United States would like to contain growing Chinese influence; but without valuable traditional allies in the region, in particular Japan and the Philippines, this already difficult task seems impossible. In this sense, Manila’s attitude should not be too surprising, anxious as it is to put aside historical differences and recent tensions with Beijing.
About the Author
Federico Pieraccini is an independent freelance writer specialised in international affairs, conflicts, politics and strategies.