Humanosphere is on hiatus. Many thanks to our web design, development and hosting partner Culture Foundry for keeping the site active while we plan our next move. Culture Foundry builds, evolves and supports next-level websites and applications for clients you know, and you couldn’t ask for a better partner to help you thrive in digital. If you’re considering an ambitious website design or development project, we encourage you to make them your very first call.

Killings, curse words can’t keep Duterte’s popularity down in the Philippines

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)

The rest of the world may be horrified by the deadly drug war and colorful words of Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte, but his constituents think he’s doing an “excellent” job, according to the latest surveys.

Social Weather Stations (SWS) reported that Duterte has maintained an “excellent” trust rating since taking office at the end of June. Of the 1,200 adults interviewed, 83 percent expressed “much trust” in the president and only 8 percent expressed “little trust,” yielding him a net rating of +76. Nine percent remained undecided.

The survey, conducted Sept. 24-27, also asked about the highly controversial drug war, which so far has resulted in nearly 2,300 extrajudicial killings of people alleged to be drug dealers and addicts by police and vigilante citizens – what Human Rights Watch has described as “near-biblical bloodletting.”

Like Duterte’s trust rating, the drug war received an “excellent,” with 84 percent of those surveyed on record as somewhat or very satisfied with the ongoing crackdown. However, 71 percent of respondents also said it was “very important” for suspects to be arrested alive.

Separate from the trust rating, which “gauges public trust in a personality as a whole,” the survey also reported a “very good” net satisfaction rating of +64, reflecting the public’s satisfaction with Duterte’s performance as president, SWS told the Philippine Star.

“While there is a variance in his June (+79) and September (+76) [trust]ratings, this is not significant to indicate a change of people’s sentiment given the [3 point] margin of error of each survey,” Duterte’s communications secretary Martin Andanar said in a statement. “This will further motivate his administration to continue what he started in his first 100 days – fighting illegal drugs and crime, combating terrorism, curbing corruption and sustaining the momentum of economic growth.”

In the months since becoming president, Duterte has dominated global headlines by staunchly defending the mounting death toll of his drug war; taking China to international court over a territorial dispute in the South China Sea; comparing himself to Hitler; calling a U.S. ambassador, President Obama and the pope “son of a whore”; and snubbing the country’s decades-long U.S. alliance while expressing great interest in aligning with China and Russia. The list goes on.

Yet it seems Duterte’s words and actions – endlessly condemned by foreign bodies and human rights organizations – are fueling nationalistic support among those who have survived.

“We ordinary Filipinos support Duterte’s drug war,” reads an online petition to the international community. “We will never be a narco-nation. We will be enjoying this safe and peaceful nation very soon.”

In a speech against foreign aid yesterday, Duterte said he wants Filipinos to shed off a “beggar’s mentality” and to “become independent, mentally, emotionally, internally, and be willing to risk a bit of sacrifice so that we can establish our own independence, in terms of policy and not be dependent on foreign aid,” according to presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella.

The same strongman act that worries the international community has won him not only the Filipino people’s approval, but their overwhelming trust.

Some urge caution in taking these survey numbers at face value because of polling limitations in the Philippines, a less-than-majority election victory, historically fickle popular sentiment and other factors. Nevertheless, these results indicate that Duterte will likely stay the course, while his administration and supporters turn a blind eye to his authoritarian abuses.

“The Duterte administration is committed to good governance anchored on the twin principles of transparency and accountability that will lead to lasting peace, political stability and inclusive economic progress in the years ahead,” Andanar said in a statement. “The Filipino people deserve no less.”

From here, it looks like they’re getting a lot less.


About Author

Joanne Lu

Joanne Lu is a South Carolina-based writer and editor dedicated to global development, poverty alleviation and social justice. After a year in Rwanda, she now covers the Asia-Pacific and economics. Find her on Twitter @joannelu or email