Philippine democracy is populist democracy. Elections operate on the basis of popularity, fear, and patronage. People have become used to a ‘guns, goons, and gold’ style of politics. Buying votes is commonplace and as mediators of public demands and interests, political parties are ineffective, weak and unstable. Parties are malleable organizations shaped and reshaped according to the whims of individual leaders. Not surprisingly, there is little trust in them.
When Rodrigo Duterte campaigned for the presidency, long experience as mayor of Davao, the Philippine’s third most populous city, meant he already had popular appeal. Many welcomed his candidacy. After all, elections in the Philippines are circus-like occasions. One candidate promised to establish a ‘divine government’. Another claimed that all Filipinos would be millionaires within three years if he were elected. More than 100 people initially filed to run for president in 2016.