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1. KEEPING THE FAITH IN DUTERTE: There's record unemployment in the Philippines. People are facing hunger due to COVID-19 lockdowns. Despite the pandemic woes, or perhaps because of it, Filipinos have kept faith in President Rodrigo Roa Duterte, whose popularity has gone through the roof this year. He scored a record 91% public approval rating in a survey taken in September (released early in October).
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2. POPULAR AMIDST CRISIS: Duterte's record approval rating is the highest for the Philippine strongman so far, perhaps the highest for any leader in the world (Russian President Vladimir Putin's approval rating was 60% in July 2020, according to the Levada Center). It was the first major poll on Duterte conducted in the wake of the COVID-19 health and economic crisis. The results stunned his critics and analysts. For his supporters, it was an affirmation that Duterte is the only leader able to steer the country in these difficult times.
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3. HIGHER RATING: The September poll was taken by Pulse Asia, one of the Philippines’ most authoritative and independent polling agencies. The last poll was taken in December, when his approval rating already stood high at 87%. The September results showed another 4% jump in Duterte’s approval rating.
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4. CRITICS STUMPED: The survey results stumped his critics. It underlined Duterte's unshakable popularity. It also reflects the resilience of a generation of leaders seen as populists, such as Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro — who have maintained high levels of public support despite criticisms of their responses to the pandemic.
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5. COVID-HIT: In recent months, the Philippines has been at the regional epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic, at one point posting a record of more than 6,700 new infections per day (on August 10, 2020) and a 373,000-plus infections (as of October 26, 2020), that ranks the country among the 20 highest in the world, and second-highest in the Asean bloc, after Indonesia.
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6. PERCEIVED HONESTY: "We trust the president because he is honest. Remember when he returned a Rolex given by a tycoon? That alone makes him trustworthy," said Jose Gaw, who runs a 35-year-old furniture business. His shop was shut for several months and has struggled since reopening. His sentiments are shared by many in the country of 110 million inhabitants.
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7. TOUGH ON DRUGS, SMUGGLERS, CORRUPTION: For years, drug dealers and their protectors, especially among the police, have ruled the streets of the Philippines. Duterte's "war" on drugs, though flawed in many ways, was welcomed by a great majority of Filipinos, who had been exasperated by its destructive effect on youngsters. When Duterte named and shamed five "narco-generals" — all are senior police officers — the nation was shocked. But it was the sort of strongman ways that Filipinos had been waiting for all along. On several occasions, Duterte had personally overseen millions of dollars worth of smuggled luxury cars — Ferraris, Lamborghinis — getting crushed. It was Duterte's message to smugglers and their cohorts at the Philippines customs bureau. https://gn24.ae/7fa76a0ecf26000
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8. SKY-HIGH RATINGS: The Philippine economy is expected to contract by 7.3% this year, the second-worst performance in the region behind Thailand and a dramatic fall from the average 6% growth seen over the past decade. Those dire numbers and projections did not make a dent in Duterte's approval ratings, which by some measures, is currently the highest worldwide.
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9. RUNAWAY POPULARITY: In a separately released survey by Pulse Asia, also conducted in mid-September, Duterte scored an even higher approval rating of 92% in terms of his handling of the COVID-19 crisis, while his overall administration garnered an 84% approval rating. Duterte’s key political allies, namely Senate President Vicente Sotto III (84%) received high approval ratings.
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10. GENEROUS WITH INSULTS: Duterte has made it clear he holds nothing sacred. He made disparaging remarks about rape victims, his political rivals, former US president Barrack Obama (twice), Canadian PM Justin Trudeau. If insults could kill, his rivals would have been decimated 10 times over. One of his famous insults was directed against God: "Who is this stupid god?" uttered on June 22, 2018, when he blasted the Creation story. Such disparaging remarks have led to his sharpest clash with the Philippines' politically powerful Catholic clergy. A great majority of Filipino Catholics (more than 80% of the population), however, including key members of the clergy, support Duterte's war against drugs and corruption.
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11. Despite the fact that the mainland is the biggest source of drugs that end up on Philippine streets, President Rodrigo Duterte cozies up to China. His supporters view this as a pragmatic accomodation of a powerful neighbour. In November 2019, police arrested a suspected Chinese drug trafficker and seized from him more than 370 kilogrammes of meth with an estimated street value of more than 2.5 billion pesos ($119 million) discovered in a suburban Makati city apartment of Liu Chao, who was arrested. It was one of the largest illegal drugs hauls in 2019. Two of Liu's drug dealers were later arrested with 17 more than kilogrammes of methamphetamine. | File photo: Chinese President Xi Jinping (right) and Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte.
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12. $164.7-BUILD-BUILD-BUILD: Meanwhile, while the pandemic has slowed down Duterte’s “Build-Build-Build”, an Php8 trillion ($164.7 billion) infrastructure program, various projects had been restarted. The move is seen, in part, as an antidote to years of neglect of infrastructure, lack of jobs, poverty, communist insurgency and separatism that had plagued the country for decades. Duterte has also encouraged private companies to fork out billions of dollars for big-ticket projects, including airports, skyways, power plants, iconic bridges. | https://gn24.ae/823385bdf80f000
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13. SUCCESSOR: Duterte’s constitutionally-mandated single six-year term ends on June 30, 2022. The 2022 election will decide his successor. Buoyed by popular support, Duterte is consolidating his base and cementing his legacy. He has to handpick a successor. Duterte's daughter Sara (at right), is the most likely candidate. Currently the Mayor of Davao City, Sara is Duterte’s eldest daughter who, like her father, is also a lawyer.
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