Duterte's legacy as Philippines president - infamous for his deadly drug war - steps down on Thursday (June 30)

This file photo taken on April 19, 2018 shows Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte holding a Galil sniper rifle with outgoing Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Ronald dela Rosa (L) during a change of command ceremony at Camp Crame in Manila. Duterte, who steps down as Philippine president on Thursday, June 30, 2022, has earned international infamy for his deadly drug war and foul-mouthed tirades, but remains hugely popular among Filipinos fed up with the country's dysfunction and political elite. - AFP

MANILA, June 28, 2022 (AFP): Rodrigo Duterte steps down as president Thursday after a six-year term marked by a bloody drug war, a devastating pandemic and the worst economic crisis in decades.

The 77-year-old authoritarian firebrand has been succeeded by the son and namesake of former dictator Ferdinand Marcos, who was swept to victory in a landslide last month.

Here are the key elements of Duterte's legacy:

- Drug war -

Duterte was elected in 2016 on a promise to get rid of the Philippines' drug problem, openly ordering police to kill drug suspects if officers' lives were in danger.

At least 6,248 people died in police anti-drug operations, official government figures show. But rights groups estimate tens of thousands have been slain by police and shadowy vigilantes, even without proof they were linked to drugs.

The campaign was widely condemned and sparked a probe by the International Criminal Court, but it did little to dent Duterte's popularity among many Filipinos who welcomed his swift brand of justice.

- Rebels -

Violence has persisted on the restive southern island of Mindanao despite a 2014 peace deal with former rebels from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

Under Duterte, efforts to decommission the MILF's 40,000 fighters and distribute economic aid have sputtered, raising fears that disillusioned Muslim youths could turn towards more hardline Islamist groups in the poor region.

In May 2017, hundreds of pro-Islamic State foreign and local gunmen seized Marawi, the country's largest Muslim city.

But in what is seen by some analysts as Duterte's biggest achievement, he signed a law in 2018 granting greater autonomy to the region -- the crucial missing element to the languishing peace pact.

- Poverty -

Millions of people were lifted out of poverty in the first few years of Duterte's term as economic reforms by his predecessor Benigno Aquino bore fruit.

The poverty rate fell from 23.5 percent of the population in 2015 to 16.7 percent in 2018, according to the Philippine Statistics Authority.

But as the pandemic choked the economy, the financial misery of the poor worsened.

The poverty rate shot back up to 23.7 percent last year in the country of 110 million people.

In the first three months of 2022, 43 percent of Filipino families reported feeling poor, while 34 percent felt they were on the "borderline".

- Infrastructure -

Financed by taxpayer money and foreign loans, Duterte went on a spending spree with an 8-9 trillion peso ($147 billion to $165 billion) "build, build, build" campaign to improve the sorry state of the country's infrastructure.

Thousands of bridges, dikes, classrooms, evacuation centres and roads were built in a flurry of development.

The Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) said that in the first four years of Duterte's term, the government was able to "accomplish" 2.5 trillion pesos' worth of public infrastructure projects.

That compared with 820.4 billion pesos over the same number of years in the previous administration, it said.

But many key projects hit potholes.

The DPWH said recently that 12 out of 119 "infrastructure flagship projects" -- which account for more than half of the overall cost of the campaign -- have been completed.

- Pandemic -

Led by retired military generals instead of public health experts, the government's response to the coronavirus pandemic inflicted deep financial pain and upheaval.

Duterte was skewered by critics over an initial shortage of vaccines and glacial rollout of jabs, while successive lockdowns and strict social distancing rules devastated businesses.

The economy plunged into its first recession in three decades, with millions left jobless.

By May 27, 2022, a total of 70.8 million people had been fully vaccinated and the economy was rebounding after the lifting of restrictions.

- China -

Once-frosty ties between China and the Philippines warmed under Duterte despite his nation's long-standing maritime row with Beijing over the South China Sea.

Hoping to boost trade and investment, Duterte set aside an international ruling that Beijing's historical claim over most of the South China Sea was without basis. Critics say the gambit failed.

That move, along with Duterte's threats to axe a key military deal with the United States, the country's former colonial master, sparked fears of a destabilisation in regional security.

Duterte took a more assertive stance towards China in the last year of his term, as tensions over the resource-rich waters intensified and domestic pressure on him grew.

He also walked back a decision to cancel the Visiting Forces Agreement with the United States. - AFP

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Duterte , Infamous , Legacy , Deadly , Drug War


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