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Philippines - Politics


Manuel Luis Quezon Antonio y Molina PN 15 Nov 193501 Aug 1944
Sergio Osmeña y Suico PN 01 Aug 194428 May 1946
Manuel Roxas y AcuñaPL 28 May 194615 Apr 1948
Elpidio Quirino y RiveraPL 16 Apr 194830 Dec 1953
Ramon Magsaysay y del Fierro PN 30 Dec 195317 Mar 1957
Carlos Polestico Garcia PN 17 Mar 195730 Dec 1961
Diosdado Pangan MacapagalPL 30 Dec 196130 Dec 1965
Ferdinand Emmanuel Edralin Marcos PN 30 Dec 196525 Feb 1986
Maria Corazon Cojuangco-AquinoPDP-LP+UNIDO 25 Feb 198630 Jun 1992
Fidel Valdez RamosLakas-CMD 30 Jun 199230 Jun 1998
Joseph Marcelo Ejercito EstradaPMP 30 Jun 199820 Jan 2001
Gloria Macapagal-ArroyoKAMPI 20 Jan 200130 Jun 2010
Benigno Cojuangco "Noynoy" Aquino IIIPL 30 Jun 2010 30 Jun 2016
Rodrigo "Rody" "Digong" Roa Duterte 30 Jun 2016 30 Jun 2022
Ferdinand Romualdez "Bongbong" Marcos, Jr. 30 Jun 2022 30 Jun 2028

Philippine politics, along with other aspects of society, rely heavily on kinship and other personal relationships. To win a local election, one must assemble a coalition of families. To win a provincial election, the important families in each town must be drawn into a wider structure. To win a national election, the most prominent aristocratic clans from each region must temporarily come together. A family's power is not necessarily precisely correlated with wealth -- numbers of followers matters more -- but the middle class and the poor are sought mainly for the votes that they can deliver. Rarely will they be candidates themselves.

The "masa" are the millions of underprivileged and impoverished Filipinos that make up nearly 75 percent of the voting population. This group voted together as a bloc in 1998 in the successful campaign of President Joseph Estrada, another popular former actor. They were the core of the unsuccessful "EDSA 3" people power movement opposed to the removal of Estrada in May 2001. Significantly, however, it was Manila's middle class and not the "masa" fueling both the successful 1986 "EDSA 1" people power that drove Ferdinand Marcos out of power and the "EDSA 2" movement that led to Vice President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's assumption of the presidency in January 2001.

Until 1972 Philippine elections were comparable to those in United States cities during early industrialization: flawed, perhaps, by instances of vote-buying, ballot-box stuffing, or miscounts, but generally transmitting the will of the people. A certain amount of election-related violence was considered normal. Elections in the Philippines are the arena in which the country's elite families compete for political power. The wealthiest clans contest national and provincial offices. Families of lesser wealth compete for municipal offices. In the barangays, where most people are equally poor, election confers social prestige but no real power or money.

The assassination of opposition leader Benigno (Ninoy) Aquino, Jr. upon his return to the Philippines in 1983 after a long period of exile coalesced popular dissatisfaction with Marcos and set in motion a succession of events that culminated in a snap presidential election in February 1986. The opposition united under Aquino's widow, Corazon Aquino, and Salvador Laurel, head of the United Nationalist Democratic Organization (UNIDO). The election was marred by widespread electoral fraud on the part of Marcos and his supporters. International observers, including a U.S. delegation led by Senator Richard Lugar (R-Indiana), denounced the official results. Marcos fled the Philippines in the face of a peaceful civilian-military uprising that ousted him and installed Corazon Aquino as president on February 25, 1986.

The suspension of elections during martial law seemed at first to herald a radical centralization of power in Manila, specifically in the Marcos and Romualdez clans, but traditional provincial oligarchs resurfaced when Aquino restored elections in 1987. To the dismay of her more idealistic followers, Aquino followed her brother's advice and concluded agreements with many former Marcos supporters who were probably going to win elections anyway. About 70 percent of the candidates elected to the House of Representatives in 1987 were scions of political dynasties. They included five relatives of Aquino: a brother, an uncle, a sister-in-law, a brother-in-law, and a cousin. Another brotherin -law was elected to the Senate.

Under Aquino's presidency, progress was made in revitalizing democratic institutions and civil liberties. However, the administration was also viewed by many as weak and fractious, and a return to full political stability and economic development was hampered by several attempted coups staged by disaffected members of the Philippine military.

Fidel Ramos was elected president in 1992. Early in his administration, Ramos declared "national reconciliation" his highest priority. He legalized the Communist Party and created the National Unification Commission (NUC) to lay the groundwork for talks with communist insurgents, Muslim separatists, and military rebels. In June 1994, President Ramos signed into law a general conditional amnesty covering all rebel groups, as well as Philippine military and police personnel accused of crimes committed while fighting the insurgents. In October 1995, the government signed an agreement bringing the military insurgency to an end. A peace agreement with one major Muslim insurgent group, the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), was signed in 1996, using the existing Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) as a vehicle for self-government.

Popular movie actor Joseph Ejercito Estrada's election as president in May 1998 marked the Philippines' third democratic succession since the ouster of Marcos. Estrada was elected with overwhelming mass support on a platform promising poverty alleviation and an anti-crime crackdown. During his first 2 years in office, President Estrada was plagued with allegations of corruption, resulting in impeachment proceedings. Estrada vacated his office in 2001. In 2007, an anti-graft court convicted Estrada of plunder charges. He received a presidential pardon soon after the conviction.

Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, elected vice president in 1998, assumed the presidency in January 2001 after widespread demonstrations that followed the breakdown of Estrada's impeachment trial. The Philippine Supreme Court subsequently endorsed unanimously the constitutionality of the transfer of power. National and local elections took place in May 2004. Under the constitution, Arroyo was eligible for another term as president for a full 6 years, and she won a hard-fought campaign against her primary challenger, movie actor Fernando Poe, Jr., in elections held May 10, 2004. Noli De Castro was elected vice president.

Both President Arroyo and Vice President de Castro are members of the ruling Koalisyon ng Katapatan at Karanasan para sa Kinabukasan (“K4”) coalition. In the May 2004 elections, the ruling coalition enlarged its majority in both the Senate and the House of Representatives in the 13th Congress, which convened on July 26, 2004. Certain opposition candidates, including defeated presidential candidate Fernando Poe, Jr., questioned the election results, alleging fraud and disenfranchisement of voters. On July 23, 2004, Mr. Poe petitioned the Philippine Supreme Court, acting in its capacity as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal, to order a recount of approximately 60% of votes cast nationwide. In response, President Arroyo and Vice-President de Castro asked the tribunal to dismiss the petition for lack of merit. Mr. Poe died on December 14, 2004, after suffering a stroke. Although his widow, Susan Roces, petitioned the Supreme Court to pursue the electoral protest on behalf of her late husband, on March 28, 2005, the Supreme Court unanimously dismissed the petition on the grounds that no real party in interest had filed a case to intervene or to be a substitute for Mr. Poe.

Impeachment charges were brought against Arroyo in June 2005 for allegedly tampering with the results of the 2004 elections, but Congress rejected the charges in September 2005. In November 2011, Arroyo was arrested and charged for her role in alleged electoral fraud in connection with the 2007 congressional election.

On February 24, 2006, President Arroyo issued Proclamation 1017, which declared a state of national emergency in response to an alleged attempted coup d’état. In connection with the proclamation, several opposition members were arrested or threatened to be arrested including five party list members of the House of Representatives. All public rallies, including planned demonstrations to mark the twentieth anniversary of the EDSA people power revolution that ended the presidency of former President Marcos, were discouraged. In a TV address given at 1130 hrs (local) on March 3, President Arroyo announced that she was lifting the State of National Emergency imposed on February 24, effective immediately.

In unanimous decisions, the Supreme Court: (i) declared unconstitutional Executive Order 464, which was issued by the President on September 28, 2005 to prohibit executive officials’ appearances before congressional hearings, insofar as it required members of the executive branch to obtain permission from the President before attending congressional hearings in aid of legislation; and (ii) declared null and void the Government’s calibrated preemptive response (“CPR”) policy with respect to rallies and assemblies against the Government. The CPR policy was implemented by the Government during the State of Emergency and directed law enforcement to be proactive in preventing violence and opposition gatherings.

In the 2010 elections, Liberal Party Senator Benigno S. Aquino III (son of Ninoy and Corazon Aquino) won the presidency, campaigning against corruption and on a platform including job creation, provision of health care and education, and other domestic issues. Makati City Mayor Jejomar Binay, a member of the PDP-Laban party, won the vice presidency.

The country conducted two major nationwide elections in 2013 for both houses of congress, provincial governors, and local government officials. International and national observers viewed the election as generally free and fair, but reported that instances of vote buying were widespread and that dynastic political families continued to monopolize elective offices at the national and local level. While there was a significant decline in violent incidents from the 2010 elections, election violence statistics for the village council elections in 2013 were higher than in 2010.

Rodrigo Duterte, whose foul-mouthed, populist campaign earned him both praise and ridicule, was the winner of the 2016 Philippines presidential election. With more than 90 percent of the vote tallied, the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting revealed 10 May 2016 that Duterte had earned nearly 39 percent of the vote, with Roxas pulling in just over 23 percent and Poe sitting in third place with nearly 22 percent. In the vice presidential race, Congresswoman Leni Robredo has a razor-thin lead over Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos, Jr., the son of the Philippines's late dictator.

The centerpiece of Duterte's stunningly successful election campaign strategy was a pledge to end crime within three to six months of being elected. Duterte vowed during the campaign to kill tens of thousands criminals, outraging his critics but hypnotizing tens of millions of Filipinos fed up with rampant crime and graft. On one occasion he said 100,000 people would die, and so many bodies would be dumped in Manila Bay that the fish would grow fat from feeding on them. He complained that people no longer feared the law, and he would change that.

Philippines' president-elect Rodrigo Duterte vowed 15 May 2016 to reintroduce capital punishment and give security forces "shoot-to-kill" orders as part of stepped up war on crime. "Do not destroy my country because I will kill you. I will kill you. No middle ground," the president-elect said at his first press conference. "If you resist, show violent resistance, my order to police (will be) to shoot to kill. Shoot to kill for organi\ed crime. You heard that? Shoot to kill for every organized crime," he said.

Duterte said he wanted capital punishment—abolished in 2006 under then-president Gloria Arroyo—to be reintroduced for a wide range of crimes, particularly drug offenses, but also rape, murder and robbery. He added he preferred death by hanging to a firing squad because he does not want to waste bullets, and because he believes snapping the spine with a noose is more humane.

In his inauguration speech on 30 June 2016, Duterte seemed to backtrack from his campaign stance by insisting that his adherence to the rule of law was "uncompromising," an effort, many observers surmised, to reassure human rights groups that he had no plans to orchestrate mass extrajudicial killings. A day after an inagural address in which he tried to assuage fears that he would skirt the law to root out crime, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on 01 July 2016 urged Maoist rebels to kill both drug traffickers and addicts. "Drugs have reached the hinterlands ... what if you use your kangaroo courts to kill them to speed up the solution to our problem," the 71-year-old Duterte said in a speech before the military's top brass in Manila.

More than three quarters of Philippines residents were satisfied with President Rodrigo Duterte’s performance in his first 90 days in office, which has been largely defined by his continued murders of drug dealers and outbursts directed towards Western leaders. According to the October 2016 poll conducted by the Social Weather Station (SWS) agency, 76 percent of respondents said they were satisfied with Duterte’s presidency so far, while only 11 percent said they were dissatisfied. Thirteen percent said they were undecided. Philippine police and vigilantes have killed at least 3,600 people for drug use and drug sales since Duterte took office at the end of June.

The military, in particular, has been overwhelmed by Duterte's moves. But after decades of struggle against communist rebels, it's not thrilled to see the communists in the cabinet. Furthermore, after decades of close cooperation with the US and in the context of ongoing threats and humiliations from China, this about-turn announced by Duterte is anything but a given.

The most significant human rights problems continue to be extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances undertaken by security forces, insurgents, and suspected vigilante groups; a weak and overburdened criminal justice system notable for poor cooperation between police and investigators, a meager record of prosecutions and lengthy procedural delays; and widespread official corruption and abuse of power.

Killings of activists, judicial officials, local government leaders, and journalists by antigovernment insurgents continued to be a serious problem.

Terrorist organizations, with agendas and memberships at times overlapping those of separatist or political rebels, included the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), Jemaah Islamiya (JI), and the New People’s Army (NPA). Muslim separatist groups included the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the MILF-breakaway Bangsamoro (a proposed Muslim-dominated autonomous province in southwestern Mindanao), Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), and the Moro National Islamic Liberation Front (MNLF). These organizations reportedly engaged in kidnappings for ransom, bombings of civilian targets, the use of child soldiers in combat or auxiliary roles, and operation of unauthorized courts.

On 05 December 2017 Duterte declared the Communist Party of the Philippines, CPP, and the New Peoples Army, NPA, as being terrorist organizations. He launched a campaign by armed troops in cooperation with NGOs, so-called nonprofits and funding institutions “helping” embattled regions to recover from wars and/or terrorist attacks. Amidst Martial Law in Mindanao, the war on drugs had killed thousands of young and poor people, while the crackdown on organized dissent and development workers saw the extra-judicial killings of human rights defenders.

For progressive activists, this was an act of political vilification enacted by the Armed Forces of the Philippines, AFP, that justified extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearance, torture, warrantless arrests, and the criminalization of political dissent. There was a strong push back from the popular classes: the peasant-worker alliance, petit bourgeoisie, national bourgeoisie and special sectors such as women, church people, LGBTQA+, fisherfolk, informal workers, slum dwellers, church people, etc).

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