What explains Duterte’s popularity: Bravery

What explains Duterte’s popularity: Bravery Featured

HUMANITY for most of its 250,000 years as a species lived in tribes or collections of tribes, in constant struggle against other tribes, or predators. We haven’t really changed. We still choose and admire leaders who demonstrate that particular quality: bravery. After all, we want a leader who’d fight for us, don’t we?

It is not really wisdom we seek of leaders, but bravery.The wise King Solomon is overshadowed by far by King David who was so audacious to take on Goliath, while the Arthurian legends relegated wisdom merely as the function of an adviser, Merlin.

Churchill’s ‘blood-tears-and-sweat” defiance of the Nazis, Mao’s legendary Long March to escape the encircling Kuomintang forces, Ho Chi Minh’s inconceivable fight against two superpowers were instances of leaders’ audacity. In our case, it is difficult for us now to appreciate the boldness of Bonifacio and Aguinaldo in defying not only the superpower of that age, but well, God’s representatives on this earth.

Ramon Magsaysay was our most popular President not because he was the “man of the masses” which was a slogan his American PR handlers concocted; he was admired by Filipinos as the fearless Huk fighter.

Marcos certainly didn’t project himself as from the masses.He had popular support in the early years of his rule, because of his audacity in imposing martial law to defeat the “forces of the Right and the Left”. We even admired the landlord-class Corazon Aquino, the housewife, for her grit in going against a dictator, and assuming the presidency.

Duterte obviously isn’t in the same league as such leaders—so far. But in just a year in office he has demonstrated the audacity we admire of these leaders.

84 percent approval

This explains much of his tremendous popularity and political support. His 78 percent “satisfaction” (net +66), according to the Social Weather Station survey, is the highest since Aquino, for a President in his or her first year of office. PulseAsia’s “approval” rating was higher, at 84 percent.

I suspect Duterte’s support is higher. The voting to extend martial law in Mindanao to the end of the year, as Duterte asked for, reflects his huge political support. While the extension of martial law is a very debatable issue really, 94 percent of the 259 members of the House of Representatives voted for it, not really because they believed it would be good for the country, but because they trusted Duterte who told them it would be good for the country. Only 14 were against it, members of the party-list parties that are fronts of the Communist Party. Talk of fringe groups.

I would bet that if there is a survey on what quality Filipinos most admire of Duterte, what would overwhelmingly emerge isn’t “incorruptibility”, “wisdom in governance,” or even “sympathy for the masses.” It would be”matapang’”: brave. His sigil, the fighting fist, is so appropriate to Duterte’s image among the masses.

While the hoity-toity elites and the Yellow Cult as well were aghast at his curses at the Catholic Church, the oligarchs, the illegal drug gangs, and the US, the masses interpreted this more as challenging these entities to a fight – as curses usually are when uttered in the streets.

Indeed, there never has been a President to lock horns with the Catholic Church, one of the pillars of oligarchic rule in the country, even exposing to the masses what only the elites have known: its nearly systemic sexual depredations against the youth under its care, its wealth.

There has never been a President to challenge the mighty “we-set-the-nation’s-agenda” Philippine Daily Inquirer and the ABS-CBN television network for their elite bias and for their having been the propaganda vehicle for the Yellow Cult since 1986.


There has never been a President to expose the power of oligarchs that has been very bad for the country, and to move—so far—at least against one such oligarch, the powerful magnate Antonio Floirendo. And to think that Floirendo was one of his biggest campaign financiers.

There has never been a President to go against the US, exposing its continuing hold on our foreign policy since our independence, and to even, in defiance, move the country closer to its rival superpower, China.

And of course, there has never been a President to wage an all-our war on the illegal drug industry, which his predecessors had ignored that our country was on the brink of being transformed into a narco-state. Duterte had such a tenacity in this war that he defied the Western media and NGOs’ screams of human-rights violations. The West was shocked over such Duterte threats as feeding the fish in Manila Bay with the corpses of drug lords. Filipinos saw it as the bravest of words coming from a President.

Any other President would have buckled under the campaign of the New York Times and brown Americans in the US to paint the country as one where the blood of innocents run through the streets every night.

The Marawi crisis, because it has lasted for more than a month now and has created so much destruction, would have drawn so much criticism under any other President, that he would have lost his political base. In Duterte’s case, his PulseAsia approval rating even rose from 78 percent in March to 82 percent, while in the SWS satisfaction ratings, it rose from 75 percent to 78 percent.

Why? A major reason: Two weeks after the terrorists occupied Marawi, Duterte announced that he planned to go there to be “one with his troops.” Although he would get to Marawi only a month later— purportedly because the military found it too risky for the Commander in Chief it would have required redeploying troops away from the front lines—it did send the message: This is a President unafraid to be with his troops in battle. Duterte’s announcement reminded Filipinos that his predecessor Aquino was gallivanting in Cotabato City pretending nothing was happening, while 44 of our elite SAF troops were massacred one by one in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, just a 30-minutehelicopter ride away.

Bravery of course has its limits. For the sake of our country, Duterte needs, perhaps desperately, to find his Merlin or Merlins.000
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