Our path to change
If the recent 91-percent approval rating of President Duterte is flawed as claimed by government critics, Duterte supporters will get the biggest shock of their lives when the inaccuracy gets revealed in the results of the 2022 elections. However, if the excellent rating echoes the true sentiments of the people, opposition supporters are in for the biggest disappointment of their lives. There have been so many commentaries made on the Pulse Asia survey results released last October, in which the President received the highest trust and performance rating among our leaders. Doubts have been raised on the reliability of the survey because the very high rating was attained at a time when the Duterte administration had been the subject of so much criticism because of its supposed mishandling of the health and economic crisis brought by COVID-19.
If the survey results are reflective of the people’s true sentiments, the seeming implication is that the President is immune from criticisms, and wrongdoings tarnish only his subordinates.
Various theories have been advanced to explain the unreliability of Mr. Duterte’s high ratings. First, there’s the element of fear, which purportedly drives those being surveyed to give untruthful answers for fear that it’s the dreaded government that’s behind the survey. Second, there’s the cash subsidy program for the poor, which translates into a goodwill bonanza for the government. Third, there’s the spread of fake news, which brainwashes people with Duterte propaganda. Fourth, Pulse Asia has allegedly been bribed to falsely project an image of widespread support for the President.
There could be a shred of truth in each of these theories, or in a combination of them, that indeed diminishes the integrity of the survey. But for those of us who are yearning for a mode of life different from what has become of our country under the current administration, we must be able to objectively come to terms with the reality that the President genuinely enjoys extensive support, examine the reasons why this is so, and then calibrate a way forward to bring our country on the path back to civility, accountability, and equitable share in opportunities.
The results of the past elections must serve as a wake-up call for those aspiring and working for change. Mr. Duterte won the 2016 presidential election, and the opposition failed to elect a single candidate against Mr. Duterte’s slate in the 2019 senatorial elections, even if the President was associated with bloody violence, foul-mouthed language, and fawning allegiance to hated China.
For those of us who find it surreal that Mr. Duterte enjoys solid support even while people are suffering, consider that the bizarre reality is nothing new and it’s perfectly normal for our people. They have long been living under a perverse reality: Before the pandemic, businesses were flourishing, stock market prices were soaring, our gross national product was expanding, and yet majority of our people remained stuck in the squalor of poverty. At least the current administration pays lip service to their travails, expressed in street language comfortingly familiar to them.
The spread of fake news that pollutes the minds of our people cannot be given too much credit either. We had been through a worse period of propaganda and news manipulation and monopoly during the Marcos dictatorship, and yet our people saw through all the deception. There’s a crucial but unacknowledged factor that impels people to choose belief in news manipulated to favor Mr. Duterte.
Ninety-one percent of our people may be using measures of success different from the metrics employed by those who desire change. For the majority of our people, the mantras of democracy, human rights, and civility may have become discredited concepts associated with experiences of abuse, hardship, and neglect.
We cannot continue mouthing our usual slogans, because they evoke different meanings for the majority of our people. The path to change begins with us showing to our people that we are on the ground repairing our institutions and principles, by infusing them with empathy, inclusiveness, and attentiveness to their destitution.
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