Yearender 2017 |The fast-changing images of President Duterte in effigies


“One year and a half, hundreds of broken promises and fourteen thousand drug-related deaths since Duterte took oath, the biggest surprise is that we’re no longer surprised with what’s going on.”



MANILA – In his first year in Malacañang in 2016 President Rodrigo Duterte did not get caricatured in an effigy. Instead, it was an effigy of the former strongman Ferdinand Marcos that was burned following the hasty and stealthy burial of his remains at the Libingan ng mga Bayani in late 2016.

But by the second half of 2017, after President Duterte marked his first year in power, progressive groups critical of the impact on the people of his unfolding policies restarted creating and parading effigies of the president. By September, with President Duterte’s perceived drift toward tyrannical rule, the progressives started burning his effigy.

In burning the effigy, members of organizations responsible for it are demonstrating their rejection of the traits caricatured in the effigy.

By second half of 2017, President Duterte’s wars against the people delivered through his drugs war, counter-revolutionary war, anti-Moro and anti-indigenous peoples’ war, his continuation of neoliberal policies so abhorred by the poor for making them poorer, have driven even his supposed allies into increased resistance to his policies.

Progressive organizations in the Philippines led by the umbrella group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan yearly creates an effigy of the president during his or her State of the Nation Address (SONA), caricaturing the president based on the impact on the ordinary people of his policies. In 2017, at the protests during Duterte’s second SONA, two effigies rolled with protesters on Commonwealth Avenue and  down to Batasan Avenue. One effigy resembled both Duterte and Marcos – but it reflected the patience of the progressives in still giving President Duterte the chance to adopt policies toward achieving the people’s agenda. (In his first year, in lieu of the traditional blistering caricature, the SONA presented murals depicting the peoples agenda that included land reform, national industrialization, independent foreign policy, nationalist, scientific, free education, housing, among others.)

The other Duterte effigy in his second SONA, a Duterte ala Hitler effigy, called attention to his drift to militarism and dictatorial rule. Before his second SONA, President Duterte had imposed and extended martial law over Mindanao.

By September, with the persistent absence of development in land reform while plantations were expanding and old haciendero families were using state forces to crush the people’s organized land reform projects; with his failure to deliver on promises to end contractualization; inaction on his strong pronouncements for independent foreign policy and the review of Visiting Forces Agreement with the US government; stalled peace negotiations with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines; continuing demolition of urban poor communities; thousands of summary killings, militarization of civilian communities and buildings, President Duterte’s effigies increasingly became blistering caricatures of his decisions.

Members of the Ugat Lahi artists’ collective works on the “Rody Cube” featuring President Rodrigo Duterte in one of the sides, former strongman Marcos on another side. (Photo by M. Salamat / Bulatlat)


In 2017, Duterte’s effigies depicted him in comparison with ousted dictator Marcos. He was seen in people’s rallies being rolled out and burned as a “US-Duterte Bomb,” as the Night King (inspired by a character from the Games of Thrones TV series); as a face in “Rody Cube” interchangeable with Marcos, Hitler and a puppet; as “Doots in Boots,” as a heavily armored dog of war being driven by US President Trump, as a missile being directed by US President Trump; and by yearend, as Duterterorista, a devil hiding inside a mask of a populist politician.

So soon into his term, President Duterte ended 2017 with re-extension of martial law in Mindanao and the approval in Congress of his administration’s tax reform package that would increase prices in 2018 and beyond. By this time, as a journalist covering Mindanao  reported in Bulatlat: “One year and a half, hundreds of broken promises and fourteen thousand drug-related deaths since Duterte took oath, the biggest surprise is that we’re no longer surprised with what’s going on.’



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