Explaining Populist Securitisation and Rodrigo Duterte’s Performative Philippine Foreign Policy

Michael Magcamit, Aries Arugay

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


To the surprise of many, populist leader Rodrigo Duterte instigated major shifts in Philippine foreign policy. His antagonism against the United States and European Union, fascination towards the revisionist Russia and China, and disdain for international law and institutions were viewed as significant departures from the nation’s orthodox stances. Drawing on Moffit and Tormey’s conception of populism as a political style, and Buzan, Wæver, and de Wilde’s securitisation theory, we develop and test the populist securitisation framework in the context of Duterte’s foreign policymaking. We argue that populist performances are securitising acts comprised of distinctly populist performative repertoires used by political leaders to frame and execute an ‘anti-establishment’ foreign policy with sufficient level of audience consent. Using discursive interpretative analysis, we examine the impacts of Duterte’s populist securitisation of the ‘liberal West’ as a threat to Philippine sovereignty. We find that while populist performances function as securitising acts that can reorient established foreign policy positions and biases, such performances lead to uncertainty and erosion of credibility amid institutional fragmentation and domestic political distractions. Thus, the sustainability of populist performances on foreign policy depends on reconciling the tensions and overlaps between the populist leader’s varying audiences and his mass constituencies.
Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Affairs
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 24 Aug 2023


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