Duterte Takes Philippines Office Under Fear and Accusations

Duterte Takes Philippines Office Under Fear and Accusations
Photo Credit: AP/達志影像

What you need to know

The new president says he knows the limits of his authority and the legal boundaries, but observers think otherwise.

Rodrigo Duterte, the former prosecutor and mayor of southern Davao City who won by a 38% margin in the May elections, was sworn in as the 16th president of the Philippines today.

The controversial and outspoken figure gained popularity by promising a tough stance on crime and corruption. Duterte’s success was also fueled by widespread disgust with the social elite and political establishment.

In his inauguration speech, Duterte emphasized he will adhere to due process and rule of law in his crusade against drugs and crime, Philstar reported.

"I know that there are those who do not approve of my methods of fighting criminality. They say that my methods are unorthodox and verge on the illegal," Duterte said in his speech. “I know the limits of the power and authority of the president. I know what is legal and what is not."

Duterte also spoke of his commitment to international law.

“On the international front and community of nations, let me reiterate that the Republic of the Philippines will honor treaties and international obligations,” he said. “In the domestic front, my administration is committed to implement all signed peace agreements and set institutional and legal reforms.”

The new president’s first order in office was to streamline application processes for all government agencies, ordering his cabinet to remove “redundant requirements,” the Inquirer reported. The difficulty of doing business due to red-tape has been a constant issue in the Philippines.

Many observers have expressed fears that his administration will undercut the democratic process in the Southeast Asian country.

Rights groups accuse the new president of having links to vigilante death squads who have allegedly killed more than 1,000 people in Davao. Shortly after Duterte’s victory, police launched an anti-drug crackdown under his name, leaving dozens of drug-dealing suspects dead in gunfights or mysterious circumstances, StarNews reported.

Despite his populist approach to campaigning, AFP says Duterte is in many respects a “traditional” politician. His father was an influential politician in Ferdinand Marcos’s government, and Duterte himself has created a political dynasty in Davao, placing his daughter and son as mayor and vice mayor.

Recently he has been outspoken in his opposition to the Catholic Church, a dominant force in the country.

First Editor: Olivia Yang
Second Editor: Edward White