Politics in the Age of Duterte
Time & LocationSession 5
Thu 09:00–10:30 Fritz-Reuter-Saal
- Mark R. Thompson City University of Hong Kong
- Patricio Abinales University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
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- Compelled Intimacy and the Violence of Politics Karl Arvin Hapal University of the Philippines
Steffen Jensen University of Aalborg
This presentation explores how the war on drugs came about and what consequences it will have for poor urban communities most affected by it. While commentators have pointed to Duterte to explain the emergence and consequence of the war, we explore the extent to which the war on drugs rearticulated and radicalized sedimented social structures around marginalization, state violence and politics. In doing so, we coin the concept of compelled intimacy to explain the violence of politics. This concept allows us to understand important horizontal and vertical relationships and their entanglement with authorities and state violence from a subaltern perspective. The presentation is based on a decade-long engagement with a poor relocation site on the Northern fringe of Metro-Manila, Bagong Silang. During this decade we have carried out ethnographic fieldwork among gang-like fraternities, interviewed police officers and other state agencies, carried out a quantitative survey, engaged victims of state violence in collaboration with human rights organizations and finally carried out a new round of ethnographic fieldwork during the height of the war in 2017.
- “Local Going National”: The Political Narratives of Duterte and Jokowi from Mayors to Presidency Lermie Shayne Garcia City University of Hong Kong
This study examines the political narratives of Rodrigo Duterte (Philippines) and Joko Widodo (Indonesia) from being mayors (local) to being presidents (national). It aims to understand the factors that brought them electoral successes in the 2016 and 2014 presidential elections, respectively. First, their local experiences in pragmatic problem solving as mayors of Davao and Surakarta/Solo and later as congressman and governor, gave people hope that what they did in their respective localities can also be replicated in other cities and at the national level. Unlike other candidates who made use of idealist platforms, their rhetoric was not based on empty promises but on actual achievements which later became their “campaign calling cards”. Because both candidates were already “tried and tested” at the local level, they enjoyed more legitimacy when they ran for national office. Second, their populist appeals (although based on quite different forms of populism) combined with activities in which they demonstrated their connection to the people such as Widodo’s blusukan (impromptu visits) and Duterte’s night patrols. Lastly, it also explores the importance of mediatization (both mainstream and social media) and the volunteer sector (individuals and organizations) in their campaigns. These factors help explain the hopes for reform connected to these two successful presidential candidates in the context of broken promises and poor performance of their political predecessors which had led to widespread public disillusionment.
- The Contradictions of Duterte’s Authoritarian Populism: Autocratization Through Democratic Deficits in the Philippines Bonn Juego University of Jyväskylä
Amid continued criticism from various opposition groups and negative publicity from sections of the liberal media, the Filipino majority consistently accords President Rodrigo Duterte high satisfaction ratings. The paper contributes to a critical examination of this sustained popularity of Duterte since he assumed prominence and notoriety from the 2016 elections. It does so by introducing the concept of authoritarian populism, which captures the self-contradictory political phenomenon whereby Duterte enjoys considerable social legitimacy despite—or because of—his arguably anti-democratic ideas and autocratic style of governance. In particular, it discusses the specificities of at least a dozen dimensions in Duterte’s populist politics as these have become manifest halfway through his six-year term. Methodologically, it suggests that a research on populism needs to evaluate in the first instance Duterte’s projections as presidential candidate, then his actions as the state leader in power, vis-à-vis their socio-economic consequences in the long run. The concluding remarks take on a historical perspective to support the argument that the popular consent given to an emergent Duterte-led process of autocratization is rooted in the accumulation of democratic deficits in the Philippines during the past three decades.
- The Duterte State and the State of Duterte Studies Mark R. Thompson City University of Hong Kong
Since his election as president in mid-2106, president Rodrigo Duterte has (quite literally) ‘stuck to his guns’ in implementing a promised ‘war on drugs’ while turning the Philippines into an illiberal democracy (controlling Congress, purging the judiciary, intimidating the press, undermining independent government institutions, and trolling or jailing leading oppositionists). This has created what can be termed ‘Duterte studies’. It has focused on, among other things, the ‘dark side of electoralism’, admiring ‘populist publics’, the nationalization of once ‘sub-national’ authoritarianism, ‘Dutertards’ and the role of ‘trolls’ and the new social media, ‘penal’ or ‘violent’ populism with the ‘securitization’ of the drug issue, ‘murder as enterprise’ and the ‘spectacle of violence’, ‘Dutertismo’ or even Duterte as a ‘fascist original’, ‘resurgent nationalism’ and the ‘pivot’ toward or ‘appeasement’ of China. These new approaches raise questions about previously dominant forms of analysis of Philippine politics and society – clientelism, bossism, and neo-colonialism. These theoretical paradigms have proved incapable of explaining the rise and rule of Duterte whose powerful anti-drug narrative makes him less dependent on clientelism and whose popularity through singling out supposed drug criminals as the source of societal evil permits the calibrated use of coercion against opponents, with his nationalism making it difficult to label him a puppet of the U.S. and other ‘Western imperialist’ powers. The paper will also attempt to situate the Duterte state and the state of Duterte studies (with apologies to Benedict Anderson) in the larger literature on political violence and global populism.
Rodrigo Duterte’s presidency has brought a sea change to Philippine politics. Scholars have also had to take a notably different tack in their analyses, leaving in their wake traditional paradigms of clientelism, bossism, and imperialism. Duterte won the presidency with limited political machinery with a campaign narrative that targeted not only drug dealers and users but also elite politics more generally. His pro-China, anti-U.S. stance makes it rather implausible to categorize him as a typical U.S. “lapdog”. Even his bossist style is different from old-style strongman rule as his primary focus has been on the criminal “other” rather than his political rivals. This has led the emergence of what can be termed “Duterte studies” with new research foci: the nature and appeal of his violent, illiberal “penal populism” and his “social banditry morality”; the precise nature of the drug war, police vigilantism and “murder as enterprise”; the “weaponization of social media” and trolling; Duterte’s misygonist and violent humor which has a deadly seriousness to it and more generally Duterte’s style of discourse with its “backstage” authenticity; continuity in neo-liberal economic and social policy despite Duterte’s claim to be a socialist; the shift of the communist left from “frenemies” to Duterte’s most militant opponents, the apparent breakthrough in Bangsamoro autonomy, a move toward “dynastic federalism”, Duterte’s “resurgent” anti-imperialist nationalism but also the claim he is “collaborating” with the China. The aim of this panel is to discuss these new trends in Philippine politics in terms of political discourse, the drug war, economic and social policy, militarization, and foreign policy under the Duterte presidency as well as examining how it differs from the pre-Duterte era and what the longer term implications of this new political era may prove to be.