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Duterte’s critical endgame ‘neutrality’

Quote card for On The Move: Duterte’s critical endgame ‘neutrality’

One of the most celebrated events in the emerging post-pandemic period was the “biggest Bar ever” announcement on April 12 of the unusual harvest of new lawyers — 8,241 out of the 11,402 bar exam takers.

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If we were to ask President Duterte, this augurs well for the nation, especially in our quest for effective presidents. Mr. Duterte was quoted in a March 11 interview on the Sonshine Media Network International as hoping that the next president should have the good quality of being a lawyer. He added that in just one glance, a lawyer could make a decision on whatever kind of issue because s/he would be able to project the repercussions of the alternative decisions.

This remark narrows Mr. Duterte’s field of approval down to Vice President Leni Robredo and Jose Montemayor, the only lawyers in the field of 10 presidential candidates. Mr. Duterte narrowed this field further when he said that when he told his father that he wanted to be a congressman someday, his father admonished him that, first, he should love the people.

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This remark, which has widely been interpreted as Mr. Duterte seeing VP Leni in a more favorable light, may be more valuable as a candid appraisal of the chances of the purported frontrunner in the presidential race, Ferdinand Marcos Jr., of being an effective president.

How Mr. Duterte sizes up Marcos Jr. may reflect his own experience as an “outlier” presidentiable when he was elected in 2016. He had no stint as a senator or a department secretary that would have given him the necessary preparation for the multidimensional and national and international levels of the job. He was often awkward, bumbling, mumbling, or absent in meetings and state events.

The lack of a Marcos Jr. endorsement by Mr. Duterte may have moderated the use of the persuasive, coercive, and logistical resources of the Duterte administration in favor of Marcos Jr. It has enabled the full flowering of the pink fiesta phenomenon where voters find political meaning and intense feelings of identification with political personalities and the ideals that they stand for.

In the remaining two weeks before the elections, there have emerged two campaign styles. One is the machinery-driven campaign of Marcos Jr., where everything is planned, funded, and implemented from the top. Much of this style is dictated by the expectation that campaign funds are plentiful. The optics have been that with the vaunted Marcos wealth, there is no need for volunteerism. This campaign looks so much like a sit-down dinner.

On the other hand, the Leni-Kiko campaign, exasperatingly low on machinery and even focus at the start because of the search for a unified opposition formula, has created the impetus and the mobilization of personal resources that it now looks like a potluck dinner, much of it generous and widely distributed by the voters themselves.

There is a mixed sense of foreboding and excitement, as the contest between the Leni-Kiko Tropang Angat and the Bongbong Marcos-Sara Duterte Uniteam becomes increasingly even. The March Pulse Asia survey snapshot still had Marcos Jr. as the frontrunner but shedding points, while the Robredo percentages have increased, and accelerating much faster. The tale of the rallies shows an opposite trend — Leni-Kiko clearly ahead of Marcos-Duterte in generating live engagement and enthusiasm among the people. The key influencer and politician endorsements have also been more on the Leni-Kiko side.

Whether it is the reality of the surveys or the dissonant reality of the rallies that will be reflected on May 9 is a toss-up. This is not only an ordinary six-year presidential term that is at stake. Futurists are wont to mark a critical juncture such as this with this query: “Isn’t it here that you take a half step wrong and wake up a thousand miles astray?”

It is now more likely that, whoever wins as president, the scintillating experience that the pink rallies have given to the voters, especially to the youth, will extend into the future. It is the closest that those who were not there in the 1986 Edsa People Power Revolution could experience that singular moment of shared patriotism. If we, indeed, end up a thousand miles astray, the youth will find the way back.

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TAGS: #VotePH2022, 2022 presidential race, Duterte election neutrality, On The Move, Rodrigo Duterte, Segundo Eclar Romero
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