Letter from Manila

Research output: Contribution to specialist publicationArticle


I’m on my third visit to Manila in eight months and this time the city – normally a frenzied place – seems subdued. A premature start to the rainy season may be a factor, but so might public trepidation about incoming president Rodrigo Duterte. In recent weeks policemen working with vigilantes have murdered a number of alleged drug dealers in the major cities. This looks like the extension of a highly controversial approach to crime fighting that Duterte honed as seven-time mayor of Davao City in the southern Philippines, when youths would regularly assassinate suspected felons who’d evaded prosecution due to piddling technicalities such as scant evidence against them or their being too young to be tried. Human Rights Watch estimates that over 1000 such extra-judicial slayings happened on ‘Duterte Harry’’s (as he’s been nicknamed) watch.
Duterte has ambitiously promised to solve all crime in the Philippines within three to six months of taking office. There are fears he’ll try to achieve this by bringing back Marcos-era martial law; among the clues are his desire to give the former dictator a ‘hero’s burial’ and Duterte’s friendship with Marcos’ son Bong-Bong, who narrowly missed out on the vice presidency last month. But the scale of Duterte’s victory shows that he doesn’t just speak for the ruthless right. He wears different masks to please different constituents: he’s at once the bloke’s bloke, the anti-establishment iconoclast and the self-proclaimed socialist.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages1
Specialist publicationPrivate Eye
Publication statusPublished - 24 Jun 2016


  • Philippines
  • police culture
  • Politics
  • Asia-Pacific
  • criminal law
  • justice


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