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Duterte's popularity soars in Philippines amid claims of anti-crime 'death squads'

The controversial president is enjoying a high popularity rating three months into office.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte addresses army troops.
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte addresses army troops.
Image: Bullit Marquez

PHILIPPINE PRESIDENT RODRIGO Duterte’s popularity has soared during his first three months in office, an independent survey showed, in an apparent endorsement by Filipinos of his brutal war on crime.

Defence ally the United States, the United Nations and the European Union have led global condemnation of Duterte’s unprecedented crime crackdown, which has left more than 3,000 people dead and raised fears of mass extrajudicial killings.

However 76% of Filipinos polled by Social Weather Stations said they were “satisfied” with Duterte’s performance, with just 11% reporting being “dissatisfied” and the rest undecided.

The Manila-based polling group surveyed 1,200 adults nationwide from 24-27 September asking them simply about Duterte’s performance as president without reference to the drug war.

Duterte won the May elections in what was considered a landslide, but still with just 37.6% of the votes. In the Philippines, the presidential election is decided simply by whoever gets the most votes, and his nearest rival secured 22.6%.

Duterte, a provincial politician, stormed to victory largely on his pledge to eradicate crime in six months.

He promised that tens of thousands of people would be killed in his crime crackdown, and that he would pardon himself and police if they were charged with mass murder.

Since taking office on 30 June, Duterte has continued his threats and incitements to kill, while unleashing abusive tirades at his critics.

Last week he said he would be “happy to slaughter” three million drug addicts, as he likened his crime war to Nazi leader Adolf Hitler’s efforts to exterminate Jews.

Following an international outcry, Duterte apologised to Jewish people for his Hitler reference but insisted he was “emphatic” in his desire to kill all drug addicts.

But Duterte has also said he is not breaking any laws, insisting that police are killing only in self-defence and many of the other deaths are a result of gang wars.

A report by The Guardian has claimed that 10 state-sanctioned “death squads” have been established tasked with killing suspected drug users, dealers and criminals.

The allegations have been denied by the country’s police chief.

Regardless, Duterte has rejected the international criticism by calling US President Barack Obama a “son of a whore” and telling him to “go to hell”, sticking his finger up while saying “fuck you” to the European Union and branding UN chief Ban Ki-moon a “fool”.

According to BusinessWorld, which published the Social Weather Stations survey, only one other president has enjoyed higher popularity ratings three months into their presidency since democracy was restored in 1986 following the fall of dictator Ferdinand Marcos.

That president was Fidel Ramos, who ruled from 1992-1998, who is one of Duterte’s chief allies.

Under the constitution that was re-written post-Marcos, presidents are only allowed to serve a single term of six years.

© – AFP 2016 with reporting by Rónán Duffy

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