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Asia's Game of Thrones
The Philippines’ New President

The Philippines has elected a new president, Rodrigo Duterte, whom some are calling a Filipino Donald Trump. The Sydney Morning Herald has some specifics on the cosmetic similarities:

Mr Duterte has vowed to kill tens of thousands of criminals, feed their bodies to fish, and shun human rights laws in a crackdown on crime that would see results within six months.

His campaign speeches have been peppered with boasts about his Viagra-fuelled sexual prowess.

He provoked outrage when he joked about a murdered Australian missionary who had been raped.

The return of the Philippines to an authoritarian era has already prompted talk of a coup by some of Mr Duterte’s hardline rivals. Many Filipinos are hypersensitive to potential threats to democracy since the 1986 people’s uprising forced the Marcos family into exile.

Mr Duterte, who has been linked to vigilante death squads, warned during his campaign that he would shut down parliament and establish a revolutionary government if legislators did not endorse his policies, or moved for his impeachment.

Duterte is an unknown quantity, and doubly so in international politics; he could take the Philippines in a totally different foreign policy direction from the one it has been pursuing thus far. For example, an international court is set to decide a case brought by the Philippines regarding China’s South China Sea activities in the coming weeks, and despite a recent intervention by Taiwan, the ruling is still not expected to be in Beijing’s favor. Yet speaking before the election about the South China Sea, Duterte said he would convene a summit to hash out differences among the claimants.

“I would say to China, ‘do not claim anything here and I will not insist also that it is ours’. But then I will just keep (turn) a blind eye,” he told reporters, as results of an unofficial vote count came in showing him winning a hefty 40 percent of the votes.

“If you want joint ventures, fine, we can get the gas and the oil,” he said. “I believe in sharing.”

Would China be willing to cut some sort of deal? Just the latest surprise turn in Asia’s game of thrones.

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