Philippines’ Duterte remains as popular as ever after first year as president

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte walks past honor guards as he arrives at Manila international airport in Manila on May 24, 2017, after returning from a visit to Russia. Duterte threatened on May 24 to impose martial law in Mindanao to combat the rising threat of terrorism, after Islamist militants beheaded a policeman and took Catholic hostages while rampaging through a southern city.
NOEL CELIS / AFP / Getty Images

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte begins his second year in office on Saturday as a hugely popular leader, after taking Filipino's on a promised "rough ride" during his first 12 months in power.

The former mayor has been heavily criticized for a number of foreign policy U-turns, his confrontational style and, most notably, his administration's unprecedented crackdown on drugs.

However, the 72-year-old politician remains overwhelmingly popular among the electorate, according to a series of polling surveys, with the latest showing that 75 percent of voters surveyed were satisfied with his premiership.

CNBC takes a look back at Duterte's first year in office.

Join the rough ride

President-elect Rodrigo Roa Duterte and outgoing president Benigno Aquino III shake hands during the inauguration at Malacanang Palace on June 30, 2016 in Manila, Philippines.
Dondi Tawatao | Getty Images

During his inauguration speech, Duterte was typically forthright in setting out his plans for the Asian country.

"The ride will be rough… but come join me just the same," said Duterte to a crowd gathered at Manila's Malacanang Palace on June 30, 2016.

According to official figures, police are believed to have killed 3,171 drug suspects over the past year amid a so-called war on drugs.


Chinese President Xi Jinping (R) shakes hands with Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte prior to their bilateral meeting during the Belt and Road Forum, at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China May 15, 2017.
Etienne Oliveau | Pool | Reuters

President Duterte's first 12 months in charge of the Philippines may also be remembered for a dramatic shift away from traditional alliances. He has sought to distance the Philippines from the U.S., preferring to build closer ties with China and Russia.

Duterte has insulted several U.S. government officials during his first year as leader - including former President Barack Obama - and in December 2016 he said he wanted to kick the U.S. out of the country.

International accountability

Different labor groups mark the first year of President Dutertes administration with protests as they march near the Malacanang Palace in Manila on 30 June 2017.
George Calvelo | NurPhoto via Getty Images

Human Rights Groups have condemned Duterte for his war on drugs and criticized the international community for not doing enough to rein in the Philippines' leader. The Rights Groups accuse Duterte of unleashing corrupt police officials as well as vigilante death squads on a campaign of mass murder.

Duterte has consistently pushed back against international accountability.

Martial law

Jes Aznar | Getty Images

Duterte's first year in office comes at a time when he faces arguably the most significant crisis of his rule, as Islamist militants occupy parts of a southern city.

On May 23, gunmen stormed the southern city of Marawi flying black flags in support of the so-called Islamic State.

Duterte subsequently imposed martial law across the southern third of the country, where approximately 20 million people live. However, despite a relentless bombing campaign – supported by the U.S. – the military's effort to remove the group has been unsuccessful.

The fighting has claimed more than 400 lives, according to the Philippines government.

Super Majority

J Gerard Seguia | Pacific Press | LightRocket via Getty Images

A further demonstration of the Philippines president's popularity is perhaps reflected in his majority in the lower house of Congress.

Duterte faces just seven opposition members in the 296 member chamber. Typically, lawmakers in the country tend to support the country's premier for as long as the approval ratings remain favorable.