Duterte, covid19, and populist-authoritarianism in the Philippines: Contentions and contradictions

September 2022

Verna Dinah Q. Viajar


In dealing with the coronavirus pandemic, the Duterte government responded too late in stopping local transmission, too little in preparation, and too much force in lockdown enforcement. The Philippines has the strictest and longest lockdown in Asia, yet the steady increase of covid infections from June 2020 until the surge on March 2021, show that lockdowns, without strong public health interventions, are ineffective to stop the contagion. Instead of swiftly addressing the loss of lives and livelihood, the government tightened its authoritarian grip to power. This paper examines the contradictions and contentions on Duterte’s sustained populism in the context of strengthening authoritarian tendencies in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic response utilizing the Gramscian perspective. The paper utilizes critical theories on neoliberalism, populism and authoritarianism in analyzing the increasing inequalities, neoliberal policies and fascist tendencies in the current Philippine political economy.

This paper is part of our series “Lessons learned from Covid-19: Transforming a Global crisis to global Solidarity.” Download a PDF for the full series here.

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