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Aquino conundrum at the heart of messy politics

As president of the Philippines, Benigno Aquino III is defying a general trend in his country's politics. The economy continues to surge even as his ratings plummet, which is remarkable for a leader who critics widely regard as an ineffectual lame duck; his term expires in just over a year.

     In March, Aquino suffered his lowest poll ratings -- 50% below the approval rating when he came to power in June 2010. Yet the economy continues to forge ahead -- reaching 6.1% annual growth in gross domestic product in 2014, up from 3.7% in 2011, and could be the second fastest-growing in the world in 2015, according to economists. The Philippines has also emerged as the best performer in Southeast Asia, edging out Thailand and Indonesia, the two biggest members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

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