When Populists Perform Foreign Policy: The Case of the Philippines under Duterte

Dr. Aries A. Arugay
25 May 2017

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has caught global attention because of his unconventional leadership style, fiery rhetoric, and hardline policies. Though he campaigned to address the country’s domestic ills such as criminality, corruption, and inequality, he has become (in)famous for his drastic statements about foreign relations and the role of the Philippines in Asia’s turbulent strategic environment. This seminar examines Duterte’s pursuit of an independent foreign policy in the face of major power rivalry in the region, ASEAN’s midlife crisis, and leadership changes in other countries. It analyzes the firebrand president’s foreign policy pronouncements through the prism of populism and performativity, with particular attention on domestic audience costs, political stability, and economic imperatives that define and limit his government’s range of foreign policy options. Professor Arugay argues that the realization of a more independent Philippine foreign policy needs to be reconciled with existing strategic realities, institutional logics, and the trajectory of Philippine domestic politics.

About the Speaker: Dr. Aries A. Arugay is associate professor of political science at the University of the Philippines in Diliman. He has conducted research on comparative democratization, electoral politics, civil-military relations, contentious politics, security sector reform, and international relations in the Asia-Pacific. He was a visiting fellow at the Institute of Security and International Studies (ISIS Thailand), Carter Center (Caracas, Venezuela), Centro de Estudios Superiores Universitarios-Universidad Mayor de San Simón (Bolivia), Department of Government and International Relations – University of Sydney, the Jeju Peace Institute (South Korea), and the National Institute for Defense Studies, Japan Ministry of Defense. He is also Senior Editor of Asian Politics & Policy and Associate Editor of Voluntaristics Review and the Philippine Political Science Journal. In 2015, he was selected as a Young Southeast Asian Fellow by the US-based Southeast Asia Research Group. He obtained his PhD in Political Science from Georgia State University in Atlanta and his MA and BA (cum laude) in Political Science from the University of the Philippines-Diliman.