Broad Support for Duterte Drug War in Philippines, Pew Finds

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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 Center poll has found.

Some 78 percent of Filipinos approve of Duterte’s handling of the illegal drugs issue, with 62 percent 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 a year after his election, with 86 percent saying they had a favorable view of him, a result in line with domestic surveys. The poll had a margin of error of 4.3 percent.

The survey — conducted between Feb. 26 and May 8 — predates some 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 joined protests in the capital Manila and Quezon city on Thursday to mark the anniversary of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos’s martial law declaration 45 years ago.

Duterte spokesman Ernesto Abella reiterated the president had no plan to expand military rule beyond Mindanao, where the government has battled Islamist militants. The state “recognizes the fear and indignation of the people against a repetition and perpetuation of such human rights violations,” Duterte said, referring to Marcos’s decade-long martial rule, in a proclamation suspending government work Thursday.

Drug War

Since taking office in June 2016, Duterte has waged a war on illegal drugs that has been condemned by the United Nations, the European Union and human rights advocates. While Duterte administration officials place total deaths at more than 3,400 as of July 26, Human Rights Watch estimated earlier this year that more than 7,000 people had been killed, including at least three mayors.

The survey also found that 78 percent of Filipinos believed that 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.

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

Some 78 percent surveyed held a positive view of the U.S., compared with 92 percent who expressed such sentiments two years ago. The share with a positive view of China climbed one percentage point to 55 percent.

Still, Filipinos expressed less confidence in current President Donald Trump than Obama. Some 69 percent of those surveyed trusted Trump “to do the right thing in world affairs,” compared with 94 percent who expressed such confidence in Obama in 2015.

The poll doesn’t account for Trump’s subsequent praise of Duterte, saying he was “doing a great job” and inviting him to the White House.

Three-quarters of people agreed that having U.S. military personnel in the Philippines was a good thing for the country, while 68 percent said they assumed the U.S. would use military force to defend their country from China.

–With assistance from Clarissa Batino.To contact the reporter on this story: Norman P. Aquino in Manila at To contact the editors responsible for this story: Daniel Ten Kate at Brendan Scott, Jason Koutsoukis

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