“Duterte’s Democratic Dictatorship” by Malcolm Cook

2018/47, 26 April 2018

On 26 April, Boracay Island, the Philippines’ most popular destination for local and foreign tourists, was closed down for six months upon the verbal request of President Duterte. In 2017, more than 2 million tourists visited Boracay.

No Executive Order stating the legal basis for the half-year closure and no proclamation of calamity have been released despite the President first announcing the planned closure on the basis of a proclaimed calamity weeks ago. President Duterte has also admitted that there is no masterplan for the restoration of Boracay.  A case in the name of some aggrieved workers on Boracay seeking a temporary restraining order (TRO) has been brought to the Supreme Court. Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque retorts that “we see no reason how private persons can allege and prove irreparable injuries, a prerequisite for TRO, given that their stay in the island is by mere tolerance of the State.”

This dictatorial approach to Boracay shares similarities with the Duterte administration’s brutal war on drugs that has claimed thousands of lives, mostly of poor people of all ages alleged to be drug users. In both cases, the word of the president, not the following of legal due process, has suddenly upended the livelihoods and security of thousands of people. The master list of politicians and officials allegedly implicated in illegal drugs brandished by President Duterte is his personal list. The Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency, the National Bureau of Investigation and the Philippine National Police have stated they are not responsible for its compilation.

President Duterte won the 2016 presidential election with over 40% of votes cast and an impressive winning margin after a campaign that dwelled on his promised brutal war on drugs. Today, nearly a third of the way through his single six-year term, President Duterte remains very popular across all demographic categories and is the most popular post-Marcos president. The assumed mutual exclusion of democracy and dictatorship is again being tested in the Philippines.

Dr Malcolm Cook is Senior Fellow at ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute.

The facts and views expressed are solely that of the author/authors and do not necessarily reflect that of ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute.  No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form without permission.