Duterte leaves the presidency of the Philippines after six years marked by violence

This Thursday, the Philippines says goodbye to President Rodrigo Duterte. During the last six years, his violent rhetoric lavish in testosterone and threats – “the funeral homes will be full”, he already warned during the electoral campaign – became state policy and sowed the country with corpses in his particular war against drugs. A bloody legacy that defines his mandate beyond his ambitious infrastructure plans or his rapprochement with China, but which still has not deprived him of the majority support of the Filipinos.

According to official data, at least 6,250 people were killed by May 2022 in anti-drug police operations, an average of more than a thousand extrajudicial killings per year of mandate. Human rights organizations put that figure at between 27,000 and 30,000 dead if those killed by unidentified assailants are included. Most of the victims were young boys living in run-down urban slums.

Up to 30,000 people would have been extrajudicially murdered in anti-drug police operations

The bleeding does not end here. According to a recent report by the digital media Rappler Dozens of human rights defenders (427), environmental activists (166) or trade union leaders were also assassinated during his tenure. Among the tactics used by the authorities against them is the use of so-called red labels : publicly point out people or organizations contrary to their interests as suspected of being related to communist groups, thus inducing their harassment or attack by third parties.

These have also been dark times for press freedom. Added to the murder of twenty professionals is the closure of media such as the country’s largest channel, ABS-CBN, whose license expired in 2020 after chaining several clashes with Duterte, or the harassment of journalists such as Maria Ressa, co-founder of Rappler and Nobel Peace Prize winner in 2021, who has been very critical of the president.

In what appears to be a final act of retaliation, the authorities confirmed on Wednesday a previous order to close their portal for, they maintain, violating legal restrictions on media ownership in the hands of foreign entities. She denies it and assures that she will appeal to the Supreme Court.

In the economic aspect, Duterte invested between 140,000 and 156,000 million euros in the campaign “Build, build, build” with which to improve the sorry state of national infrastructure. He has had some successes, but the task has been half done: only 12 of the 119 most emblematic projects in the portfolio have been completed, representing more than half the cost of the campaign. Nor have poverty rates improved in a nation famous for its unhealthy slums. According to data from the year 2021, 23.7% of the 110 million Filipinos lived in poverty.

Duterte’s approach to foreign policy has been as tumultuous as his rule at home. He publicly called then-US President Barack Obama or Pope Francis a “son of a bitch” for their criticism of the war on drugs and threatened to slap International Criminal Court judges investigating his abuse.

The president has also abandoned his traditional alignment with Washington to bring positions closer to China despite the territorial disputes that both maintain in the South China Sea, which aroused the suspicions of the opposition.

On the verge of leaving office, Duterte does not hide his frustration at the refusal of his daughter, Sara Duterte, to stand as a candidate for the presidency in the last elections, in which in the end she opted for the vice presidency in tandem with the new president, Ferdinand Bongbong Marcos.

The son of former dictator Marcos, who was kicked out of the country in 1986 by a popular movement after years of abuse, has offered the outgoing leader a post in his administration in charge of fighting drugs, a job he has turned down. In his place, with his characteristic cockiness, he advanced that he plans to drive around with his motorcycle in search of drug dealers to kill himself. “Now that I will no longer be president, no one will be able to tell me what to do,” he says.

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Duterte leaves the presidency of the Philippines after six years marked by violence