Why do Duterte’s ratings stay high?
That has been on the lips of a lot of people. It’s a no-brainer for 66 percent: What a silly question. For the rest, it’s a puzzler. I asked around. In no particular order, here are some reasons floating or floated around:
He’s decisive. Never before has a president had so much guts. Who has dared stand up to the United States? But to list every change/mandate/policy/command he has declared, from wiping out drugs in three to six months to wanting “all terrorists dead” (Inquirer, 6/5/17), and to examine if each was right or wrong, successful or not, takes the back seat. Ruling with such dispatch is not authoritarianism; it’s leadership.
“May appeal”—his language, that is. His audiences continue to be captivated by his magic alchemy of vulgarity and brutality, delivered with a certain “lightness” that disarms people instantly. “I will eat your liver… Give me salt and vinegar…” (Inquirer, 7/11/17). Why does this kind of talk resonate and draw applause rather than condemnation, unknowingly consenting to and creating a culture of obscenity? Does the Pinoy really talk or think that way?
“Marunong bumaba.” He gets to the level of the common tao. Once he gets there, the people are his forever. Everything else fades. Mandates to kill, as in EJKs (extrajudicial killings) and carpet-bombing, are OK. That he has not (yet) visited Marawi due to bad weather is forgiven. His diplomatic flip-flops matter little.
“Parang Erap, kahit palpak, mabango pa rin sa tao; kahit napreso na, mataas pa rin ang boto” (Like Erap, even if incapable, still the people’s choice; even if imprisoned, still the people’s vote). People are absolutely disgusted with politicians, and Mr. Duterte gives the impression that he’s not a politician. Whether he is or isn’t is beside the point. Sixty-six percent believe he isn’t. He is a populist who loves his people, especially his soldiers. There is nothing more popular than being perceived as a populist. Again, whether real populism applies to him or not is beside the point. It’s quite a feat, but he appears untainted by the severely damaged reputation of the courts, up to the Supreme Court, and of Congress, especially the House scraping the remains of its credibility. And apart from the tarnished Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre, how fares the Cabinet?
Social media (alien to this computer illiterate) is said to harbor an awesome army of ever-faithful, ever-loyal supporters engaging any challenger and keeping his shining image in the public eye.
“Something has happened to the Filipino character.” It has sunk to a new low—low standards, low morality, low expectations. This view may draw as much censure as the “damaged culture” leveled at us by a foreigner years ago.
For the longest time we have grown up in a mix of the pangulo mentality, celebrity gazing, an uncertain nationalism, a religious culture that values obedience laced with fear, no questions asked, a historical forgive-and-forget people, a collective mind neither educated nor used to intellectual or critical activity. We’ve had all kinds of leaders. Were tired of them; “they’re all the same.”
Have we become worn-out as a people, a tame hybrid of tanga-takot-tuta (ignorant, afraid, servile)? We have ceased to complain, much less protest, where before we whined. The traffic is worse; the MRT still breaks down; prices are rising; the bureaucracy is as slow as ever. Since December 2015 we have been waiting for our car plate. The EJKs go on, and not a peep. Have we dried up?
I am curious to find out the strongest reason for the high ratings from the ABCs, where education and money reside, who also keep Mr. Duterte up there and won’t move as long as business thrives, untouched, and also from the moralists, who foamed at the mouth for reproductive health, which is morally gray, and who are now conciliatory, not also (I hope) on EJK, which is black. I look to the sociologist-anthropologists the most, because they it is who study us as a people, what/how we were, are, and what we are becoming.
Finally, this has been asked: How representative are the samplings chosen for the surveys?
Asuncion David Maramba is a retired professor, book editor and occasional journalist.
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