The Statesman’s Yearbook Online

edited by Dr Barry Turner

Rodrigo Duterte

Image courtesy of wikipedia





Rodrigo Duterte took office on 30 June 2016, succeeding Benigno Aquino III. He is noted for his hard-line approach to fighting crime, particularly the drugs trade.


Rodrigo 'Rody' Roa Duterte was born on 28 March 1945 in Maasin. He graduated in political science from the Lyceum of the Philippines University in 1968 and earned a law degree from San Beda College of Law in 1972. His career as a lawyer included a spell as prosecutor for Davao City from 1977–86. Following the revolution that overthrew Ferdinand Marcos in 1986, Duterte was appointed vice mayor of Davao City before assuming the mayoralty itself two years later. Interspersed with stints as a congressman and again as vice mayor, he served as mayor for a total of 22 years. During this period he won a reputation for effectively fighting crime and corruption.

In Nov. 2015 Duterte announced his presidential bid and on 9 May 2016 he secured a decisive victory at the polls winning 39·0% of the vote, well ahead of his closest rival.


Duterte's abrasive, populist style has attracted intense international criticism, yet he has remained a popular figure domestically. Vowing to replicate his anti-corruption and anti-crime initiatives at the national level, he has led an unrelenting crackdown on illegal drug dealers and users, earning him the nickname 'the Punisher'. He has called for the reimposition of capital punishment and voiced support for extra-judicial killings of suspects by the police and vigilante squads, resulting in thousands of deaths in the first year of his tenure. Critics have variously accused him of inciting violence, overstepping the law, disrespecting democratic freedoms and insulting various heads of states, ambassadors, the Catholic church, the media and human rights groups.

Duterte has vowed to pursue an independent foreign policy, rejecting interference by foreign governments, notably the USA. He has also expressed a desire for closer relations with China and Russia. Domestically, his challenges have included upholding his promise to introduce a federal form of government while maintaining economic growth, dealing with Muslim and communist insurgencies and combating corruption.

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