Since Rodrigo Duterte became president, much of the news about the Philippines has focused on the large number of extrajudicial killings that appear to be connected to his controversial war on drugs. Duterte’s vituperative statements against US President Barack Obama have also made headlines. More recently, former President Fidel Ramos — whose words still command respect in the country — criticised Duterte for being a "huge disappointment and letdown" because he had wrongly prioritised the war on drugs at the expense of issues such as poverty, living costs, foreign investment and jobs.

Our view is that, with a promising economic policy team and agenda, the sound economic foundation that his predecessor President Benigno Aquino had left him, and immense popularity that allows him to overcome resistance to reforms, Duterte has a unique opportunity to take the country to unprecedented heights. However, there are legitimate concerns that the current approach to the rule of law and foreign policy may cause the country to lose out on this historic opportunity.

The positive case: Duterte can bring about fundamental changes
Some of the ingredients necessary to bring the Philippines to a much higher level of economic potential could fall into place as a result of Duterte’s rise to the presidency.

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