How the Philippines’ new strongman romped into office despite a shocking campaign

By Pauline Eadie, University of Nottingham

Mayor Rodrigo Duterte of Davao City in Mindanao is now president elect of the Philippines. His path to the presidency was controversial, riddled with expletives and reduced his detractors to mud slinging and comparisons with Hitler. But the mud failed to stick: with almost all precincts reporting, he looked to have won the race to the presidency with more than 15m votes and nearly 40% of the vote. His nearest rivals have conceded defeat.

Duterte came to the presidential race late, prompted by a Senatorial Electoral Tribunal decision to allow Senator Grace Poe to run for the presidency. Her presidential aspirations had been dogged by her background as a foundling, her temporary conversion to US citizenship and her alleged failure to meet the residency requirements for government office. Despite the tribunal’s verdict, Duterte threw his hat in the ring, saying he didn’t want an “American” to be president of the Philippines.

As election day loomed, surveys were released showing that Duterte was more than 10% ahead of his nearest rival, and his opponents mounted desperate efforts to stop his campaign juggernaut. Senator Antonio Trillanes, a vice-presidential candidate, accused Duterte of stashing unexplained funds in hidden bank accounts, of shooting people in the head at point blank range, and of being in league with the Communist Party of the Philippines. Duterte responded by filing treason charges against Trillanes, though they seem unlikely to stick.

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