Why Is There No Political Polarization in the Philippines? - Political Polarization in South and Southeast Asia: Old Divisions, New Dangers (2023)

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Everyday politics in the Philippines usually arouse scant interest in the United States. This changed markedly, however, with the near contemporaneous 2016 elections first of Rodrigo Duterte as president of the Philippines and then of Donald Trump as president of the United States. The similarities between the two candidates were hard to mistake. Both were self-consciously anti-establishment, they regularly insulted their political opponents and consistently violated norms of political correctness, and they styled themselves as law-and-order politicians, promising vigorous and even violent crackdowns on criminal activity.

Yet when it comes to political polarization—in the sense of politics and society being rigidly divided into two blocs along a single master cleavage—the similarity ends. In the United States, polarization between Republicans and Democrats likely was significant in bringing about Trump’s electoral victory. Moreover, polarization in the United States has, if anything, increased since the 2016 election. In contrast, in the Philippines, where political parties are almost nonexistent, there was no evidence of polarization at the time of Duterte’s electoral victory. He emerged as the most popular of a diverse group of more or less independent presidential candidates. Since then, despite his government’s notoriously lethal campaign against drug dealers and users, mass polarization remains all but absent.

Paul D. Kenny

Paul D. Kenny is professor of political science in the Institute for Humanities and Social Sciences at the Australian Catholic University. He holds graduate degrees in political economy and political science from the London School of Economics and Yale University. From 2013 to 2020, he worked at the Australian National University, where he remains a visiting fellow. He is the author of two books, Populism and Patronage: Why Populists Win Elections in India, Asia, and Beyond (Oxford University Press, 2017), which won the American Political Science Association’s 2018 Robert A. Dahl Award, and Populism in Southeast Asia (Cambridge University Press, 2019).

With estimates of those killed in police and vigilante operations between June 2016 and the end of 2018 running as high as 27,000, there has been vocal international and domestic opposition to Duterte’s war on drugs.1 Human rights activists, academics, journalists, and a few politicians have taken the government to task for its violent actions and Duterte’s tightening grip on power. Yet, despite these dissenting views, at the level of public opinion, Duterte is so popular that it is almost possible to speak of a unipolar political environment in the Philippines. Why is that the case?

Although there is some potential for polarization in the Philippines, the country lacks many of the conditions that have made polarization endemic elsewhere. Filipinos do disagree over some core values, including democracy and religion; the Philippines also has significant ethnolinguistic and regional diversity and one of the highest levels of inequality in the world.2

The absence of political polarization in the Philippines stems in part from the remarkable popularity of Duterte’s signature war on drugs.

Yet, unlike in highly polarized countries such as the United States, these ideological, religious, and socioeconomic cleavages do not overlap. Political rivalries continue to be based largely on personality and faction rather than on ideology or identity. Additionally, the absence of political polarization in the Philippines stems in part from the remarkable popularity of Duterte’s signature war on drugs. Support for this government campaign completely transcends other political and economic divisions and undergirds Duterte’s extraordinary personal popularity. Although his popularity is not immutable, there is little indication of a more stable form of polarization emerging in the near term.


Traditionally, the Philippines has been a patronage-based or clientelistic democracy, in which political power rests on the distribution of economic benefits to supporters. In the late 1990s, Alfred McCoy, one of the foremost experts on the Philippines, coined the expression “an anarchy of families” to describe a system in which a handful of fabulously wealthy clans use patronage networks to dominate politics and the state itself.3 Elections were contests between these oligarchic clans, with the victors distributing a share of the spoils to their dependents, mostly the rural and urban poor.

The rise of a middle class and the saturation of mass media have altered this pattern somewhat since McCoy’s writing, but a few wealthy clans continue to have a disproportionate presence in Philippine politics, especially at more local levels. Inequality is extremely high, and politics are largely the purview of the rich. In this patronage-based system, party brands and loyalties mean little. Indeed, following a presidential election, it is common for many members of Congress to switch to the side that won. Some of the country’s best-known presidents, including Ramon Magsaysay and Ferdinand Marcos, switched from one party to another to win elections.

Traditionally, the Philippines has been a patronage-based or clientelistic democracy, in which political power rests on the distribution of economic benefits to supporters.

This patronage-based system has largely shaped politics in the Philippines since its independence in 1946. It was reconfigured, but not fundamentally changed, during the Marcos presidency (1965–1986), which included a lengthy term of authoritarian rule—the Martial Law period—from 1972 to 1981. Under Marcos, the main political cleavage was over loyalty to the Marcos clan itself. As he took down some of the country’s old political families, new oligarchies were founded on the basis of his patronage. In the mid-1980s, opponents of Marcos, most notably identified with the Aquino clan—first Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Junior and then his widow, Corazon “Cory” Aquino—mobilized a population that had become increasingly disenchanted with the Marcos government’s economic mismanagement, corruption, and human rights abuses. When Marcos supposedly lost the rigged elections of 1986, his tenure was no longer viable, and he was removed from office in the so-called People Power Revolution of that same year.

Despite this upheaval and the return of democracy, the country’s political system kept its basic clientelistic structure. The new president, Cory Aquino (1986–1992), did little to fundamentally reform the oligarchic nature of Philippine politics. Even as corruption arguably declined at the very top, contemporary reports suggest that it continued to pervade lower levels of government, arguably, in fact, being “democratized” along with the political system itself.4 Perhaps reflective of the public’s widespread disaffection with the political status quo, the vote in the 1992 presidential election was shared across a crowded field of candidates. Fidel Ramos ultimately edged out his competitors with the lowest winning vote share in the Philippines’ electoral history.5 Although Ramos passed some significant liberalization measures during his presidency (1992–1998), severe structural inequalities remained.

The prospects for root-and-branch reform seemed greater with the election of the former actor and populist Joseph “Erap” Estrada (1998–2001) as president in 1998. In the wake of the 1997 Asian financial crisis, the economic anxieties of the Philippines’ enormous poor population fueled dissatisfaction with the political status quo. Estrada’s base was overwhelmingly poor, and his government was the first to see politics in the Philippines take on a cleavage with strong socioeconomic characteristics. In early 2001, however, a series of corruption scandals and a botched impeachment attempt precipitated mass street demonstrations, known as People Power II, which ousted Estrada from office. Estrada was replaced in 2001 by his vice president, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (2001–2010), but her administration, too, was marked by continual allegations of corruption and the use of patronage to secure political power.

The election of Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III (2010–2016) in 2010 was a testament to the continued supremacy of family over political party in the Philippines. The son of former president Cory Aquino and of Marcos’s assassinated opponent, Ninoy Aquino, the younger Aquino came to office promising socioeconomic reform, his main campaign slogan being: “If there is no corruption, there will be no poverty.”6 Although his administration oversaw an uptick in the Philippines’ already impressive economic growth rate from an average of around 5 percent under his predecessor to about 6 percent during his tenure, his approval ratings had declined by the end of his term in 2016, even if he was still the country’s most popular outgoing post-Marcos president.7

This is when Duterte burst onto the national political scene. He hails from a minor political clan, and his mother’s connections allowed him to secure an appointed position as vice mayor of Davao City in 1986. From this position, Duterte became mayor in 1988 when elections were reintroduced. In Davao, he was a controversial but popular mayor of one of the country’s most populous cities, a position he effectively held—even though he had to step down occasionally to circumvent term limits—until his 2016 presidential run. His administration gained both plaudits and notoriety for its tough stance on crime, with even minor infractions such as littering attracting stiff punishments.

Although Duterte was no stranger to old-style machine politics, his presidential campaign placed much greater emphasis on direct appeals to voters through the media, in part to transcend his provincial base of support. This populist campaign strategy leveraged mass media and social media and thereby allowed Duterte to appeal to Filipinos over the heads of the country’s powerful political clans. He centered his presidential campaign on anti-establishment and law-and-order messages, casting himself as the “man on horseback” who would challenge the elite or, as he characterized it, “Imperial Manila.”8 Furthermore, in the months before the election, Duterte began to campaign aggressively on the issue of drug-related criminality. In a May 2016 television interview, he pronounced that, if elected president, he would pack funeral parlors with thousands of executed criminals and that he would dump 100,000 slain criminals in Manila Bay, where “the fish [would] grow fat.”9

Duterte’s late entry into the race meant that he was polling in fourth place just six months before the election, but he effectively used rallies, mass media, and social media to deliver his message and build support.10 Social media was a novel and likely important element of his campaign. He had—and has—an army of online supporters who vigorously defend him on social media, shouting down and even threatening his critics—the so-called Diehard Duterte Supporters (DDS). (The acronym is a play on the term Duterte Death Squads, which his opponents have used to criticize his war on drugs.)

However, traditional mass communications tactics remained central to his appeal. Pre-election surveys showed that most registered Filipino voters (up to 77 percent) said that television was the most influential source of information for them in their choice of president.11 The significant increase in support for Duterte over the course of 2016 (from 20 percent in January to a 39 percent vote share in the May election) has been attributed to his performance in the second presidential debate—which for the first time in Filipino political history had been broadcast live by major television and radio networks. In an April 2016 survey, a plurality (34 percent) of respondents who watched, listened to, or read reports about the debate believed that Duterte had bested the other contenders.

Beyond the debates, Duterte, given his controversial and often crude behavior, commanded extensive airtime. During his campaign and later his presidency, Duterte has also made a point of making frequent public appearances. On the campaign trail, he went to combat zones, poor urban communities, and areas affected by natural disasters, among other places, to speak directly with regular Filipinos. His language was often divisive, misogynistic, and vulgar, yet it was common to hear his audience applaud or laugh at his controversial statements.

After taking office in June 2016, Duterte quickly made good on his promises to aggressively pursue those involved in the illegal drug trade. Within a month after it was implemented, his antidrug campaign resulted in the surrender of around 330,000 suspected drug users and dealers, more than 9,000 arrests, and 664 deaths.12 In its most recent report, the Philippine National Police acknowledged that there were 6,600 deaths related to the government’s war on drugs from early July 2016 to late May 2019.13 Other organizations estimate that between July 2016 and December 2018, up to 27,000 people were killed by state security forces or by nonstate groups working with implicit sanction from the authorities.14

Faced with criticism over his drug war, Duterte has responded with harsh rhetoric and autocratic maneuvers. For example, when Senator Leila de Lima called for an investigation into the deaths arising from the antidrug campaign, Duterte publicly attacked her, and the Department of Justice charged her with sedition and other offenses. She was arrested in February 2017 and has now spent more than three years in prison.15 After United Nations Special Rapporteur Agnès Callamard spoke of the need to investigate alleged extrajudicial killings in the country, Duterte threatened to slap Callamard should she persist with an investigation.16 Supreme Court Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, another Duterte critic, was forced out of office in 2018.

Meanwhile, the online news outlet Rappler, another fierce critic of Duterte’s war on drugs, had its registration revoked by the country’s Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), and in June 2020, Rappler’s Chief Executive Officer Maria Ressa was convicted of cyber libel and given an indeterminate sentence that could result in up to six years in prison.17 The Court of Appeals overturned the SEC decision, but the Duterte administration continues to ban Rappler journalists from covering presidential events.18 The government also refused to renew the franchise of the independent ABS-CBN television network.19 Although Filipinos remain attached to the principles of democracy and press freedom, these encounters have not weakened Duterte’s public support.

Is the Philippines Polarized?

Although polarization has often gone hand in hand with the rise of populism around the world, there is little evidence of this confluence in the Philippines. Jennifer McCoy, Tahmina Rahman, and Murat Somer define severe or “pernicious” polarization as “a process whereby the normal multiplicity of differences in the society increasingly align along a single dimension, cross-cutting differences become reinforcing, and people increasingly perceive and describe politics and society in terms of ‘us’ versus ‘them.’”20 According to this approach, one of the main empirical criteria of polarization is that a society is politically divided into two distinct blocs. As Alban Lauka, Jennifer McCoy, and Rengin Firat write, “polarization is low if many people are supportive of a party but very few reject it and vice-versa.”21

There is little or no partisan polarization in the Philippines.

By this measure, there is little or no partisan polarization in the Philippines. Parties are marginal players in Philippine politics. Only the small parties of the far left adhere to a well-defined ideology. All the largest so-called parties are instead the electoral vehicles of oligarchic clans. The Nacionalista Party is the vehicle of Manuel Villar (the Philippines’ second-richest man), the National Unity Party that of Enrique Razon (the country’s fifth-richest man), and the Nationalist People’s Coalition that of Eduardo Cojuangco Junior (the fourteenth-richest man).22

Duterte’s party, the Partido Demokratiko Pilipino–Lakas ng Bayan, better known as PDP-Laban, is similarly a personalistic vehicle, whose primary appeal to voters is Duterte himself. In 2016, PDP-Laban secured just three seats in Congress, even though Duterte won 39 percent of the national vote.23 Even three-and-a-half years into the Duterte presidency, no such party-based polarization exists. In fact, in September 2019, only 4 percent of respondents identified with PDP-Laban, while 94 percent identified with no party at all.24 As a result of the marginal role played by parties, most measures of polarization, such as the ideological distance between parties or legislative rollcall voting, would imply the near absence of polarization.

However, polarization may be measured in two other ways. First, society could still be split into two relatively coherent and opposed blocs, even if party affiliations do not reflect this cleavage. In the Philippines, however, socioeconomic, ethnoreligious, and regional differences have not structured or dominated politics. For a brief period in the late 1990s, it appeared that social class might form the basis of an enduring political cleavage, but since the fall of Estrada in 2001, most of the country’s political elite has continued to draw support from cross-class, clientelistic coalitions. Similarly, although there are considerable underlying tensions between the country’s major ethnolinguistic groups, regionalism has a minimal impact on national politics. Duterte sought to exploit residual anti-Manila sentiment outside the National Capital Region, but in practice he has broad support throughout the country.

A second alternative way to look at polarization focuses purely on support for or opposition to the government. During the Marcos presidency, for instance, the cleaving of both the elite and the masses into pro- and anti-Marcos factions could be seen as evidence of intense (if temporary) polarization, as region, ideology, and interests all momentarily aligned to form a master cleavage. Is there evidence of this kind of pro- and antigovernment polarization under Duterte, a populist and often antidemocratic leader?

In a word, no. Although Duterte has prominent domestic critics, it would be a mistake to say that Filipinos are divided into persistent pro- and anti-Duterte blocs. Duterte began his term in office with high approval ratings, as most presidents in the post–martial law period have. However, Duterte’s popularity has proven much more enduring than that of his predecessors. Social Weather Stations polls indicate that, in December 2019, Duterte reached his highest level of popularity to date, with a net approval rating of 72 percent.25 Furthermore, even though factors such as class, region, and gender may partially predict individuals’ attitudes toward Duterte, his approval rating is high across different demographic categories. According to a December 2019 Pulse Asia Research poll, only 4 percent of Filipinos disapprove of Duterte’s performance.26 Opposition to his government is, in the statistical sense, marginal. This does not rule out the possibility that views of Duterte could change in the future, but at present, there is simply no sizable constituency opposed to the president, at least as measured by public opinion polls.

Polarization, Democracy, and the War on Drugs

Although the existence of regional and socioeconomic inequality could predispose the Philippines toward polarization, the way in which political parties or factions are structured around locally and nationally prominent oligarchs and celebrities tends to preclude the development of political blocs in which multiple salient cleavages overlap. Owing to the lack of enduring political identities, the fate of any national administration depends to a large degree on its performance. Filipinos have repeatedly shown their willingness to turn against once popular leaders. Here the peculiarity of Duterte’s appeal comes in.

It is impossible to explain his popularity without considering the war on drugs. It was only after Duterte made crime the signature element of his campaign in early 2016 that he surged to the top of national public opinion polls. The number of respondents stating that “curbing the widespread sale and use of illegal drugs” was the most important issue facing the nation rose from 36 percent in January 2016 to 41 percent in April 2016.27 Predictably enough, there is a positive correlation between concerns over criminality and support for Duterte.

Although assessments of Filipino politics often portray law-and-order issues as a creation of Duterte, Filipinos’ substantial concerns over crime date back to before his presidential run. As far back as October 2015, respondents were asked, in an open-ended question, to identify the primary problem or issue in their locality that the next president should immediately address. In this survey, a plurality (21 percent) of respondents identified illegal drugs as their primary concern, narrowly eclipsing the second-most important problem, the lack of jobs or a source of livelihood. Similarly, illegal drugs were the top concern for roughly one-third of respondents in the National Capital Region (34 percent) and the country’s most affluent socioeconomic class (ABC) (31 percent)—two groups from which Duterte consistently obtained significant support before and in the election. The proliferation of illegal drugs was also the most pressing concern (21 percent) for the largest Philippine socioeconomic class (D).28

Prior to Duterte’s election, there was, moreover, growing disenchantment with the government’s handling of crime. Approval of the Noynoy Aquino government’s performance fighting criminality remained constant at 54 percent between March 2011 and June 2014, but then it began declining, falling to around 45 percent even before Duterte declared his candidacy for president.29 Philippine National Police data indicate that an increase in real reported crime levels preceded this drop in public approval of the government’s performance on crime.30 So crime, and especially drug crime, was already a serious issue before Duterte further popularized it. He thus tapped into a latent demand for law and order.

Support for the war on illegal drugs has remained robust since Duterte’s election. In a December 2019 poll, 93 percent of respondents supported the antidrug campaign, whereas only 3 percent did not. Levels of support for Duterte are even higher than those expressed in the first post–drug war survey conducted in September 2016. Surprisingly, this overwhelming support exists despite widespread reservations about police conduct. As of March 2017, about half of respondents believed that the police disregard the rights of drug suspects in conducting their operations. Moreover, in a March 2018 survey, 79 percent agreed that extrajudicial killings occur, and 68 percent were worried that they, a relative, or someone they knew might be killed because of drug war operations. Yet even among this group, support for the campaign remains overwhelming.31

Support for the drug war also cuts across other cleavages. Those with populist attitudes—viewing “the people” positively while viewing the “elite” negatively—and those who describe Duterte as a charismatic leader are more inclined to view the drug war positively.32 However, there is no association between explicitly authoritarian attitudes and support for the antidrug campaign. Belief in the potential necessity of a return to martial law to solve the country’s problems has remained steady at around one-third of respondents throughout Duterte’s term in office, and this belief is uncorrelated with support for the drug war. As one recent headline stated, the “drug war is wildly popular.”33

Cracks in the Edifice?

At present, the Philippines shows no signs of emerging political polarization. This does not mean that Duterte is invulnerable. His base of support has little ideology or identity to tie it together. His popularity emanates from his association with his government’s signature war on drugs. Were the campaign itself to become unpopular, the support that so quickly flocked to him in 2016 could shift just as swiftly.

Yet there are no indications of such a turn on the horizon. Although there is little evidence that the killings have done much to curb addiction or eliminate high-ranking cartel members, the militarization of the country’s antidrug strategy has not resulted in a general deterioration of law and order (unlike in Mexico and Central America), an outcome that might undermine public support for the cause. Indeed, qualitative evidence indicates that people are satisfied with the results to date. Missteps, such as the police’s killing of an unarmed seventeen-year-old, Kian Delos Santos, in August 2017, had little perceptible impact on Duterte’s popularity. The president turned the blame on the offending police officers, and the boy’s parents even posed for a picture with him, publicly absolving Duterte of any guilt. Although the country’s drug war is incredibly controversial outside the Philippines, it shows no signs of losing its domestic appeal.

It is also possible that economic or foreign policy issues could undermine Duterte’s popularity. The most precipitous drop in Duterte’s approval rating occurred as inflation rose on the back of higher rice prices. His administration quickly responded by allowing for the free importation of rice (subject to a tariff), and his approval ratings rebounded above their precrisis levels. However, as of September 2019, inflation remained the top concern of a plurality of Filipinos (21 percent).34 Filipino voters may also expect Duterte to deliver on his promises to create more and better-paying jobs. So far, he has received the benefit of the doubt while he concentrates on law-and-order issues, but if he fails to show results on the economy soon, it is possible that his support could ebb away.

Another point of vulnerability is foreign policy. Duterte’s pivot to China has been unpopular in the Philippines where, according to a 2014 Pew study, 92 percent of the public has a favorable view of the United States. Indeed, Pew found that the Philippines is the most pro-American country in the world.35 On this issue, however, even though Duterte’s seemingly soft stance toward China over the territorial integrity of the Philippines in the South China Sea has caused considerable consternation among politicos, as of September 2019, fewer than 3 percent of Filipinos rated “defending the integrity of the Philippines’ territory” as the most important problem facing the country.36

Ultimately, however, even if Duterte loses some support over economic and foreign policy issues, it is currently difficult to see this dissatisfaction coalescing into a coherent anti-Duterte opposition. In this respect, the governmental and public responses to the coronavirus outbreak in early 2020 are illustrative. An underfunded public healthcare system and high population density, especially around Manila, make the Philippines particularly vulnerable to the virus. With many workers engaged in the informal economy, large parts of the population also face desperate privation.

The government response has been equivocal. Duterte initially downplayed the seriousness of the virus, only to later reverse course and impose a near-total lockdown as the outbreak worsened. It is not yet clear whether the spread of the virus has begun to affect Duterte’s popularity, but the longer it persists, the more likely this scenario becomes. National leaders elsewhere in the world who have risen in popularity since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, such as New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, have done so because they have been highly effective in mitigating its impact.37 Ultimately, the Duterte government’s performance will be telling for his popularity.

The Philippines may chart a political trajectory that more closely resembles the Russian experience, with the massive popularity of the president translating into something even more unipolar, albeit much less democratic.

Should Duterte seek to extend his term in office—through a constitutional amendment, perhaps—it is possible that a more coherent democratic opposition could emerge ahead of the 2022 presidential election. A public emergency, such as the coronavirus outbreak, could provide a pretext for the president to seek expanded authorities. Indeed, on March 24, Duterte signed into law the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, which greatly enhances his powers to deal with the emergency created by the pandemic.38 Filipino authorities arrested almost 30,000 quarantine violators in the month prior to April 17, and Duterte warned of a police and military “takeover” should people continue to break quarantine measures.39 Most recently, in June 2020, Filipino legislators passed a new antiterrorism bill that grants the government broad authority to stifle dissent.40

The Philippines is unlike many other countries where populism reigns. In places like Turkey and Venezuela, populist presidents have exploited emergency conditions to consolidate power, intensifying political polarization along a pro- versus antigovernment axis. However, in these cases, polarization was already present. In contrast, given the fractured and personalistic nature of Philippine politics, it does not appear that endemic polarization is likely to develop. Rather, the country may chart a political trajectory that more closely resembles the Russian experience, with the massive popularity of the president translating into something even more unipolar, albeit much less democratic.


1 Howard Johnson and Christopher Giles, “Philippines Drug War: Do We Know How Many Have Died?” BBC, November 12, 2019, www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-50236481.

2 For up-to-date global data on levels of inequality, see World Bank, “GINI Index (World Bank Estimate),” https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SI.POV.GINI.

3 Alfred W. McCoy ed., An Anarchy of Families: State and Family in the Philippines (Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press, 1998).

4 Seth Mydans, “In Post-Marcos Philippines, Corruption Still a Way of Life,” New York Times, October 17, 1988.

5 “Ramos Is Declared New President 6 Weeks After Philippine Election,” New York Times, June 23, 1992, www.nytimes.com/1992/06/23/world/ramos-is-declared-new-president-6-weeks-after-philippine-election.html.

6 Wataru Kusaka, Moral Politics in the Philippines: Inequality, Democracy and the Urban Poor (Singapore: NUS Press (in association with Kyoto University Press), 2017), 218.

7 For growth figures, see World Bank, “GDP Growth (Annual %) - Philippines,” https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GDP.MKTP.KD.ZG?locations=PH. On Noynoy’s comparative polling figures, see Social Weather Stations, “Fourth Quarter 2019 Social Weather Survey,” January 21, 2020, www.sws.org.ph/swsmain/artcldisppage/?artcsyscode=ART-20200121185102.

8 Jonathan Miller, Duterte Harry: Fire and Fury in the Philippines (London: Scribe, 2018).

9 Ted Regencia, “Philippine Mayor Admits Links to Death Squads,” Al Jazeera, May 25, 2016, www.aljazeera.com/news/2015/05/philippine-mayor-death-squads-150525084408057.html.

10 Paul D. Kenny and Ronald D. Holmes, “A New Penal Populism? Rodrigo Duterte, the War on Drugs, and Public Opinion in the Philippines,” Journal of East Asian Studies (2020): 1–19, https://doi.org/10.1017/jea.2020.8.

11 Ronald D. Holmes, “The Dark Side of Electoralism: Opinion Polls and Voting in the 2016 Philippine Presidential Election,” Journal of Current Southeast Asian Affairs 35, no. 3 (2016): 15–38.

12 Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ), “PCIJ Findings: What’s Flawed,

Fuzzy with Drug War Numbers?” June 8, 2017, https://pcij.org/article/833/pcij-findings-whats-flawed-brfuzzy-with-drug-war-numbers; and “New PNP Statistics on Deaths in PH,” Manila Bulletin, June 19, 2018, https://news.mb.com.ph/2018/06/19/new-pnp-statistics-on-deaths-in-ph.

13 Catherine Gonzales, “6,600 Killed in War Vs Drugs From July 2016 to May 2019 – PNP,” Inquirer.net, June 18, 2019, https://newsinfo.inquirer.net/1131433/6600-killed-in-war-vs-drugs-from-july-2016-to-may-2019-pnp.

14 Johnson and Giles, “Philippines Drug War.”

15 Felipe Villamor, “Leila de Lima, Critic of Duterte, Is Arrested in the Philippines,” New York Times, February 23, 2017, www.nytimes.com/2017/02/23/world/asia/arrest-duterte-leila-de-lima.html.

16 Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, “Press Briefing Note on Attacks/Threats by States Against UN Human Rights Experts,” United Nations, November 21, 2017, www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=22421&LangID=E.

17 “Philippine News Website Rappler Has Licence Revoked by SEC,” BBC, January 15, 2018, www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-42692723; “Cyber Libel Trial Opens Against Philippine Journalist Maria Ressa,” Committee to Protect Journalists, July 25, 2019, https://cpj.org/2019/07/cyber-libel-trial-opens-against-philippine-journal; and Jason Gutierrez and Alexandra Stevenson, “Maria Ressa, Crusading Journalist, Is Convicted in Philippines Libel Case,” New York Times, June 14, 2020, www.nytimes.com/2020/06/14/business/maria-ressa-verdict-philippines-rappler.html.

18 “Libel Verdict Due for Philippine Journalist Critical of Duterte,” AFP, June 14, 2020, www.afp.com/en/news/15/libel-verdict-due-philippine-journalist-critical-duterte-doc-1te9p31.

19 Jason Gutierrez, “Leading Philippine Broadcaster, Target of Duterte’s Ire, Forced Off the Air,” New York Times, May 5, 2020, www.nytimes.com/2020/05/05/world/asia/philippines-abs-cbn-duterte.html.

20 Jennifer McCoy, Tahmina Rahman, and Murat Somer, “Polarization and the Global Crisis of Democracy: Common Patterns, Dynamics, and Pernicious Consequences for Democratic Polities,” American Behavioral Scientist 62, no. 1 (2018): 16–42.

21 Alban Lauka, Jennifer McCoy, and Rengin B. Firat, “Mass Partisan Polarization: Measuring a Relational Concept,” American Behavioral Scientist 62, no. 1 (2018): 107–126.

22 Steven Rood, The Philippines: What Everyone Needs to Know (New York: Oxford University Press, 2019), 126–127.

23 Ibid.

24 Paul D. Kenny, Populism in Southeast Asia (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2019).

25 Net approval is calculated by subtracting the percentage of respondents who “disapprove” of the president’s performance from the percentage of respondents who “approve” of it. See Social Weather Stations, “Fourth Quarter 2019 Social Weather Survey.”

26 Author’s analysis of data from a national survey conducted by Pulse Asia Research Inc., drawing on fieldwork conducted from December 3–8, 2019, with a sample of 1,200 respondents (data not publicly available). For survey report updates, see Pulse Asia Research Inc., “Electoral Polls,” www.pulseasia.ph/databank/electoral-polls.

27 Holmes, “The Dark Side of Electoralism.”

28 Based on results from a national survey conducted by Pulse Asia Research Inc., drawing on fieldwork conducted from October 18–29, 2015, with a sample size of 3,400 respondents (data not publicly available). Analysis provided by Pulse Asia Research Inc. and used with the permission of the commissioning entity.

29 Figures taken from various survey reports of Pulse Asia Research Inc. See Ana Maria L. Tabunda, “Pulse Asia’s March 2011 Nationwide Survey on Presidential Performance and Trust Ratings and National Administration Performance Ratings,” Pulse Asia Research Inc., March 21, 2011, 6, https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B3b9qPFV1cRDMG05VHFmemNqaDg/view; Ronald D. Holmes, “Pulse Asia Research’s June 2014 Nationwide Survey on the Performance Ratings of the National Administration and Filipinos’ Urgent National Concerns,” Pulse Asia Research Inc., July 25, 2014, 4, https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B3b9qPFV1cRDRGl5aTFJY3R1SGs/view; and Ronald D. Holmes, “Pulse Asia Research’s December 2015 Nationwide Survey on the May 2016 Elections,” Pulse Asia Research Inc., December 2015, 11, https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B3b9qPFV1cRDamZhNHlYUHZFd0E/view.

30 Philippine Statistics Authority, 2017 Philippine Statistical Yearbook, chapter 17, October 2017, https://psa.gov.ph/sites/default/files/PSY_2017_Jan%2016%202018.pdf.

31 Author’s analysis of data from national surveys conducted by Pulse Asia Research Inc., drawing on fieldwork conducted September 25 – October 1, 2016; March 15–20, 2017; March 23–28, 2018; and December 3–8, 2019. Each round was based on a sample of 1,200 respondents (data not publicly available).

32 Kenny and Holmes, “A New Penal Populism?”

33 Martial law figures from author’s analysis of Pulse Asia Research Inc. survey data, quarterly from July 2016 to December 2019. The Duterte-era mean is a substantial increase from the prior average of 18 percent from June 2013 to March 2016 and of 16 percent from March 2007 to November 2012. Previous aggregate figures from regular surveys are provided by Pulse Asia Research Inc. For the cited quotation, see Regine Cabato, “Thousands Dead. Police Accused of Criminal Acts. Yet Duterte’s Drug War Is Wildly Popular,” Washington Post, October 23, 2019, www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/thousands-dead-police-accused-of-criminal-acts-yet-dutertes-drug-war-is-wildly-popular/2019/10/23/4fdb542a-f494-11e9-b2d2-1f37c9d82dbb_story.html.

34 Author’s analysis of quarterly data from national surveys conducted by Pulse Asia Research Inc. from July 2016 to December 2019.

35 Bruce Stokes, “Which Countries Don’t Like America and Which Do,” Pew Research Center, July 15, 2014, www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2014/07/15/which-countries-dont-like-america-and-which-do.

36 Author’s analysis of data from national survey conducted by Pulse Asia Research Inc., drawing on fieldwork conducted September 16–22, 2019, based on a sample of 1,200 respondents.

37 Charles Anderson, “Jacinda Ardern and Her Government Soar in Popularity During Coronavirus Crisis,” Guardian, May 1, 2020, www.theguardian.com/world/2020/may/01/jacinda-ardern-and-her-government-soar-in-popularity-during-coronavirus-crisis.

38 Ronald D. Holmes and Paul D. Hutchcroft, “A Failure of Execution,” Inside Story, April 4, 2020, https://insidestory.org.au/a-failure-of-execution.

39 Eimor Santos, “Nearly 30,000 Quarantine Violators Arrested Nationwide in a Month,” CNN Philippines, April 18, 2020, www.cnn.ph/news/2020/4/18/quarantine-violators-arrested-coronavirus-lockdowns.html.

40 Aaron Sobel, “The Philippines’ Antiterror Bill Will Stifle Dissent,” Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, June 30, 2020, https://carnegieendowment.org/2020/06/30/philippines-antiterror-bill-will-stifle-dissent-pub-82215.

Carnegie does not take institutional positions on public policy issues; the views represented herein are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of Carnegie, its staff, or its trustees.

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