Rodrigo Duterte’s Early Presidency

Christian B. Mendoza Speech 30 THX-3
2018 – 00308 Prof. Mary Jannette Pinzon
A Duterte Reader: Critical Essays on Rodrigo Duterte’s Early Presidency

by Nicole Curato (editor)
Philippine political landscape is always subject to change, with the emergence of conflicting political ideologies embodied and practiced by former and current political leaders. One of the defining beacons in the Philippine history was the 1986 EDSA People Power Revolution––a nonviolent mass demonstration that sought to overthrow the dictatorial regime of Ferdinand Marcos. Since then, governance in the Philippines has been consistent with “the reformist, albeit elitist, narrative of the liberal democratic regime” (Teehankee, 2016), as opposed to the authoritarian regime of Marcos.
A shift to another form of government, however, does not necessarily mean that the country’s condition would be improved in all aspects. In fact, people in authority have failed to deliver on their promises of initiating much needed reforms to conceive remarkable socioeconomic and political transformations. Therefore, the public’s petition to bring about drastic solutions to the ills of the country was fulfilled by the sweeping electoral triumph of a former prosecutor and long-time mayor of Davao City, Rodrigo Roa Duterte, who now serves as the 16th and current president of the republic.
Written by several scholars in academic disciplines, A Duterte Reader endeavors to understand the type of regime that the country now faces under the Duterte administration. It seeks to establish the factors that led to Duterte’s landslide electoral victory in the 2016 presidential elections, and to examine the origin and level of support that the public has for his deadly “war on drugs,” which he vehemently declared to be the most pressing issue in the country.
Moreover, the book sheds light on the legacy of American Imperialism in the country, and how it became a catalyst or one of the immediate causes to ignite a revolution among Filipino people, who have long been subject to systemic oppressions triggered by the machinations of the ruling class and the culture of elitism that it has instituted.
The most striking parts of the book are the obvious manifestations of Duterte’s presidential campaign slogan: “Change is coming.” Since his inauguration as the 16th President of the Philippines last June 30, 2016, these manifestations have surfaced in ways that prompted the public to engage in political discourse over all forms of social media.
The driving force behind the citizens’ political participation is that there is someone who finally recognizes their repressed anger towards social, economic and political injustices from which they have been suffering since the prevalence of elitism emanating from liberal democracy.
To counter these injustices, Duterte has acutely focused on the obliteration of the illegal drug trade in the country through his controversial “war on drugs.” The rampant extrajudicial killings executed by corrupt police officers and vigilantes, who have no regard for the victims’ human rights, are being justified by Duterte’s portrayal of drug trade as something that poses a major threat to society and national security.
Meanwhile, a certain chapter in the book was interesting to read in a sense that it is constantly encountered by people who use various social media platforms. Written by Cabañes and Cornelio, The Rise of Trolls in the Philippines discusses the emergence of online political trolls, and its impact to promoting a democratic media in the country. This chapter also introduces Mocha Uson, a key figure in contemporary Philippine social media, who has branded herself as the voice of the ordinary people. The opportunity to enumerate the times when she has deliberately spread ‘fake news’ in social media (Arias, 2017) was neglected by these two contributors.
A Duterte Reader enables the readers to be mindful and critical of the affairs unfolding before their very eyes, especially in an era where the proliferation of disinformation, or commonly referred to as “fake news,” has hindered netizens from objectively engaging in political discourse online (Bueno, 2017).
The book gives a panoramic view of the Philippine political history, starting from the historic EDSA Revolution to an impending shift to a federal system of government under the Duterte regime, which would certainly leave a long-lasting impact to the country’s political landscape. In addition, the book allows the readers to scrutinize the reasons why some people constantly extend their support for Duterte, or why they should not turn a blind eye to how Duterte intends to solve these issues.
Between the pages of the book is a message––similar to the one that went viral online last March 2018––for the readers to ponder on: “Kapag namulat ka sa katotohanan, kasalanan na ang pumikit,” roughly translating to: Once you’ve opened your eyes to the truth, it’s a mistake to close them again. Based from the plethora of insights that the contributors have provided in this book, the readers should be able to discern this message.
The book was written from a third-person point of view since the contributors wanted to discuss the factors affecting the politics of Duterte in an objective manner; thus, presenting both sides of the matter accordingly. The readers could somehow agree with what the contributors have stated regarding the several affairs of the country.
They could observe the relevance of the information contained in the book when Duterte delivered his third State of the Nation Address (SONA) last July 23, 2018. He discussed the topics about different sectors such as businesses, conditions of the OFWs, his “War on Drugs,” foreign relations, agrarian sector, and tax reforms (Ranada, 2018). Some of the root causes of the points highlighted in his speech––persistent intervention of the American government in domestic political and economic affairs, and the incompetence of the previous administrations––have been thoroughly analyzed by the contributors.
Moreover, it is important to recognize the contribution that the book offers to the public since everything they have included in the book is a product of Duterte’s persuasive public speeches, which hinge on the three primary elements of Aristotle’s Model of Communication: ethos, pathos and logos (Timonera, 2018).
As each chapter is written through comprehensive research, coupled with an array of trustworthy references, the book could be included in the auxiliary reading materials for students of various academic fields, specifically students of politics; or could be used by authors and researchers as their reference material when writing about certain issues that the book failed to include. Nevertheless, the book is certainly for anyone who wants to fathom this confounding event in the history of Philippine politics.

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Arias, J. (2017). A list of Mocha Uson’s fake news posts. Preen. Retrieved from
Bueno, A. (2017). The anatomy of ‘fake news.’ CNN Philippines. Retrieved from
Ranada, P. (2018). Quick point-by-point summary of Duterte’s SONA 2018. Rappler. Retrieved from
Teehankee, J. C. (2016). Weak state, strong presidents: Situating the Duterte presidency in Philippine political time. Journal of Developing Societies, 32(3), 1-29. doi: 10.1177/0169796X16654594
Timonera, P. G. (2018). The rhetoric of President Duterte’s speeches and the Aristotelian conception of the rhetoric and public sphere.
Paper presented at 25th World Congress of Political Science, Brisbane, Australia. Retrieved from

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