December 24, 2017 8:00 am JST

Philippine President Duterte's approval rating rebounds sharply

ASEAN summit, defeat of southern militants possible reasons for popularity surge

CLIFF VENZON, Nikkei staff writer

MANILA -- Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte's approval rating rebounded sharply in the final quarter of the year, after falling in the previous quarter, a survey released Friday by local pollster Social Weather Stations found.

According to the survey, 71% of adult Filipinos were satisfied with the job Duterte was doing, 13% were dissatisfied, and 15% were undecided.

That gives him a net satisfaction rating of +58 (the percentage of those satisfied minus that of those dissatisfied), a 10-point rise from +48 in the third quarter, the lowest since he became president in mid-2016.

Analysts attributed the fall to the deaths of at least two teenagers in Duterte's violent campaign against illegal drugs that has killed thousands of suspected users and peddlers.

The fourth-quarter survey was conducted via face-to-face interviews of 1,200 people from Dec. 8 to Dec. 16.

There were several major events in the fourth quarter that reflected well on Duterte. Among them was the liberation of the southern city of Marawi in October, parts of which had been occupied for months by Islamic State-linked rebels.

Duterte also hosted the summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in November. And in December, the Congress passed tax reforms that will increase the take-home pay of average workers by an estimated 20,000 pesos ($400) annually, well above the monthly minimum wage in Manila.

Yet the survey found that 62% opposed the extension of martial law on the southern island of Mindanao until the end of 2018. Opposition was highest in Metro Manila at 67%, followed by the rest of the main island of Luzon at 63%, and Mindanao at 62%.

On Dec. 13, the Congress approved the extension of martial law beyond Dec. 31. The Duterte administration said military rule was needed to eradicate the remaining Muslim and communist insurgents on the island, and to fast-track the rebuilding of Marawi, which was heavily damaged during the siege.

The Philippines was under military rule from 1972 to 1981 under President Ferdinand Marcos, during which many political opponents were jailed and tortured.

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