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As the Duterte administration marks its two-year anniversary, the Philippines is undergoing a series of internal and external shocks that go to the heart of its constitution and its legal and social policy contract with its citizens. The Duterte administration’s signature to date has been a Manila-centric show of strength through the imposition of martial law, a punitive anti-drugs policy, and executive disregard for independent agencies. The national commitment to rule of law and human rights has also been called into question. This has energized and called forward many other policy actors: technocrats, business, civil society actors, the military and armed groups and individuals and groups across the spectrum of Filipino politics.
Externally, the Duterte government has embraced China as a new bilateral partner, notwithstanding the tensions surrounding China’s maritime activities. The 2017 Marawi siege has underscored the vulnerability of the Southern Philippines to external terrorist groups and has been a major set-back to achieving a sustainable peace and a political settlement for Mindanao. These issues bear directly on the Australia-Philippines relationship and the forms of legal and security cooperation that will characterize our future relationship, as well as the regional standing of the Philippines as an effective actor within ASEAN and within the Asia-Pacific more widely.
This 2018 Update aims to chart some of the national, regional and international policy challenges confronting the Philippines and what its constitutional, legal, business and security pathways are likely to look like in the coming years.