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Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte. Photo: Noel Celis/AFP/Getty Images

Despite provoking international condemnation for his disdain for laws and institutions, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte seems likely to gain stronger domestic support in the May 13 midterms, when voters will elect the lower house of Congress and part of the Senate.

Why it matters: Long one of the most democratic states in Southeast Asia, the Philippines has seen under Duterte an illiberal crackdown on the press, judiciary and political opposition and an anti-drug campaign that reportedly has led to the deaths of over 12,000 people, often through extrajudicial killings.

Background: Duterte was elected in 2016 with less than 50% of the vote. He now boasts a 79% approval rating, lifted up by a brash style, his drug war and increased spending on social programs. He also commands a powerful army of social media followers.

The impact: The legislature has been essentially a rubber stamp as it is. With stronger support, Duterte could push through even bigger changes:

  • A plan for radical constitutional changes to create a more federal system of government (though passage of the divisive reforms is hardly guaranteed)
  • A weakening of institutions designed to protect civil rights
  • A clearer path toward dynastic rule, positioning Duterte's daughter to run for president after his term ends

What to watch: The Philippines is a U.S. treaty ally and a frontline state in the tense U.S.–China relationship. Early in his term, Duterte seemed ready to abandon Manila’s historically close links with Washington in favor of warmer ties with Beijing — and a potential influx of Chinese aid and investment.

Joshua Kurlantzick is senior fellow for Southeast Asia at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Go deeper

Caitlin Owens, author of Vitals
11 mins ago - Health

Vaccine-hesitant Americans cite inaccurate side effects

Expand chart
Data: Harris Poll; Chart: Danielle Alberti/Axios

An alarming amount of vaccine-hesitant people who list side effects as a top concern falsely believe the vaccines cause death, DNA alteration, infertility or birth defects, according to recent Harris polling.

Why it matters: Respondents also listed blood clots, which are a real side effect of some coronavirus vaccines, but extremely rare. This survey suggests that misinformation or a skewed understanding of risk may be behind a sizable portion of vaccine hesitancy.

1 hour ago - Technology
Column / Tech Agenda

The new digital extortion

Shoshana Gordon/Axios

If you run a hospital, a bank, a utility or a city, chances are you'll be hit with a ransomware attack. Given the choice between losing your precious data or paying up, chances are you'll pay.

Why it matters: Paying the hackers is the clear short-term answer for most organizations hit with these devastating attacks, but it's a long-term societal disaster, encouraging hackers to continue their lucrative extortion schemes.

2 hours ago - Health

CDC mask guidance sparks confusion, questions

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The CDC's surprise guidance last week freeing the fully vaccinated to go maskless sowed plenty of concerns across the country— even earning the "Saturday Night Live" treatment for all the questions it spurred.

Why it matters: With plenty of Americans still unvaccinated — and without any good way to confirm who has been vaccinated — some experts worry this could put many at increased risk.

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