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Death and Duterte

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Death and Duterte

/ 05:12 AM October 10, 2017

The drop in President Duterte’s satisfaction ratings was almost across the board — except in Mindanao, and in the ABC socioeconomic demographic. I must emphasize one fact: Despite the falling numbers, the President continues to enjoy majority approval for his performance, and also across the board. All the same, the drop in his ratings is substantial and a cause for worry in Malacañang as well as for his political allies in the Senate and the House.

That Mr. Duterte’s approval numbers in Mindanao are statistically unchanged, at 82 percent, is no surprise; he is the first president from Mindanao and won overwhelming support from Mindanaons in the 2016 election. But why was there an increase in his satisfaction rating in the ABC classes, in the Social Weather Stations survey, from 65 percent in June to 70 in September? The same survey found that in class D his rating dropped by 10 points from 78 percent to 68, and in class E his rating plunged by 19 points, from 80 percent to 61.

I think the answer lies partly in the demographic reality of Mr. Duterte’s so-called war on drugs; classes D and E are doing most of the dying. On the other hand, classes ABC are (still) relatively untouched; the occasional body of a victim of an extrajudicial killing may be seen in the more gentrified parts of the country, but for many in this demographic the EJKs pop up in their timelines, not their streets.

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As anyone who has ever done organizing work knows, this constant background noise makes conscientization harder, not easier. We find ourselves saturated or desensitized; unless the deaths are seen as personal, the victims as individuals, there will be many of us who will not only not ask for whom the bell tolls, we won’t hear the bells at all.

* * *

Dina Abad passed away the other day; she was both advocate and exemplar of ethical public leadership, and the many institutions and movements she was a part of, including the Ateneo School of Government, are the better for her commitment and leadership. She was also such a real person, informal and compassionate.

One anecdote. After the Supreme Court declared parts of the Disbursement Acceleration Program unconstitutional in 2014, I found myself writing a column urging Butch Abad to resign as budget secretary; I thought it was the responsible, politically mature thing to do.

Soon after that column came out, I saw Dina at a diplomatic reception. “Butch and I read your column,” she said. Then, without rancor or resentment, indeed with great understanding, she talked about the ruling, my column, the couple’s decision-making, and then the eventual response from President Aquino. At that moment, as in others, she showed the great gift of confirming one’s best assumptions, but leaving other possibilities, other ways of understanding, open. She will be missed.

* * *

In a previous life, I attempted to become a lawyer. I had the advantage of sharing that dream with an officemate; we used to go to our evening classes together, right after work, discussing cases along the way. My friend was a writer, assiduous with notes; he was also well-read, and had a particular flair for the finer English idioms.

Once, I got called on in class for recitation — at that exact point where we were starting to discuss cases I had not yet read. I stood up, hoping to improvise as others had done by relying on what we called the “radyo,” the helpful comments classmates would say out of the side of their mouths. What is this case about, the professor asked. I heard my friend say: When the man bought the farm …

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This case, I started slowly, involves a man who bought a farm …

What farm?!?, the professor roared. There is no farm in this case! You are wasting our time. Sit down!

I sat down, considerably chastened, then stole a look at my friend. Why did you say there was a farm? I asked. He replied: I meant he died. He “bought the farm,” as in he died.

Ah. Those English expressions can be the death of you.

My friend went on to finish law school, even though it was not easy juggling work and family and studies. But it was his long-time dream to become a lawyer, and even though he started very late, he stuck at it. He was admitted to the Philippine Bar on May 6, 1999, and eventually worked at the Supreme Court, clerking for a justice. I found out belatedly that he died last month, of health complications. Rest in peace, Atty. Bong Bernabe.

On Twitter: @jnery_newsstand

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TAGS: Bong Bernabe, Duterte's satisfaction, Henedina Abad, john Nery, law school, Newsstand, Rodrigo Duterte, SWS survey
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