Taylor's FSLM Journals
Duterte’s image building in the 2016 Philippine presidential debates

@ SEARCH Journal of Media and Communication Research

Online ISSN: 2672-7080

Orville B. Tatcho


Debates are an interesting platform for image building given that they are only partially controlled by the candidates. This study looks into how the then President-elect Rodrigo Duterte harnessed the potential of the 2016 Philippine presidential debates for image building. The objectives of the study were to explain the role of mediation in Duterte’s image building, uncover Duterte’s strategies and topics in the debates, and critique the arising discourses in the televised debates. Using Fairclough’s Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) and Benoit’s Functional theory of political campaign discourse, this paper argues that mediation shaped and influenced Duterte’s strategies and topics. Duterte used the dominant strategies of acclaiming and attacking in line with media’s quest for spectacle and controversy. Moreover, Duterte had more policy pronouncements (issue topics) than character statements (image topics) which resulted in two dominant discourses—the discourse of provision and protection. A critique of these discourses reveals that Duterte used the debates to peddle an image of a paternalistic, iron-handed leader who resorted to shortcuts and appeals to expediency at the expense of more informed policy discussions.

Keywords: debates, Duterte, elections, Philippines, campaign discourse