Asia Minute: Duterte’s Long Goodbye in Manila

The president of the Philippines now has less than a year left in office. He gave a nationally televised address to the country on Monday—with a familiar tone of confrontation—and controversy.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte set a record this week for the longest annual State of the Nation Address to the Philippine Congress since Ferdinand Marcos left office in 1986.

It was Duterte’s last, although he’s considering a run for vice-president next year.

Wire services and local newspapers both called it a “rambling” speech, with frequent departures from the script along the way.

It lasted nearly three hours, covering what he considers highlights of his administration — including his war on drug dealers.

He repeated threats to kill them. Human rights groups say he’s condoned the killing of thousands during his time in office.

He also countered criticism that he has not sufficiently confronted China over territorial disputes in the South China Sea.

He did not spend as much time on the country’s biggest challenge: the coronavirus and its fast-spreading delta variant.

He did urge people to get vaccinations, warning that “we cannot afford more lockdowns lest our economy bleed to the point of irreversible damage.”

Last year, the Philippines economy shrank by 9.5%, its worst year since World War II.

Less than 6% of the population has been fully vaccinated, while more than 1.5 million people have contracted the virus, and more than 27,000 have died.