Rodrigo Duterte

Philippines President Duterte keeps majority support despite his deadly drug war and martial law

Pew Research Centre poll finds about 78 per cent of respondents approve of the leader’s handling of the illegal drugs issue

PUBLISHED : Friday, 22 September, 2017, 8:22pm
UPDATED : Friday, 22 September, 2017, 10:06pm

More than three-quarters of Filipinos support President Rodrigo Duterte’s drug war, despite thousands of deaths and international condemnation over alleged rights abuses, a Pew Research Centre poll has found.

About 78 per cent of Filipinos approve of Duterte’s handling of the illegal drugs issue, with 62 per cent believing the government’s campaign was making progress, according to Pew’s face-to-face surveys of 1,000 adults.

The president also remained extremely popular one year after his election, with 86 per cent saying they had a favourable view of him – in line with local polls.

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Since taking office in June 2016, Duterte has waged a war on illegal drugs, which Human Rights Watch estimates has claimed more than 7,000 lives. The government puts the death toll at more than 3,400 as of July.

The survey, conducted from February to May, predates a number of recent controversies over Duterte’s administration, including his declaration of martial law on the southern island of Mindanao and drug-smuggling accusations against his son.

Thousands of Filipinos joined demonstrations in the capital Manila and Quezon City on Thursday to protest against the martial law declaration. It came on the anniversary of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos’ martial law declaration 45 years ago.

Duterte spokesman Ernesto Abella said the president had no plan to expand military rule beyond Mindanao, where the government is battling Islamist militants.

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The state “recognises the fear and indignation of the people against a repetition and perpetuation of such human rights violations,” Duterte said, referring to Marcos’ decade-long martial rule, in a proclamation suspending government work on Thursday.

The survey also found that 78 per cent of Filipinos believed the current economic situation was good, while 57 said they were satisfied with the direction of the country. That was a 21 percentage-point increase from the last time Pew asked the question in 2014.

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The survey found a decline in the Philippines’ long-standing support for its key treaty ally, the US. Duterte clashed with the administration of former president Barack Obama and has tilted towards China in pursuit of an “independent foreign policy”.

Some 78 per cent surveyed held a positive view of the US, compared with 92 per cent two years ago. The share with a positive view of China climbed one percentage point to 55 per cent.