Post for Apr 24-30 2016

TaN: In the light of the recent consistent and sustained high survey ratings for presidential candidate Rodrigo Duterte (of the Philippines) despite the repeated supposed “blunders” — such as the self-confessed extrajudicial killings, the rape issue, and many more — it is both interesting and intriguing to analyze the possible causes or reasons behind the phenomenon.

For one thing, it could be due to the people surveyed.  Perhaps the demographics of the sample population can provide some insight.  Were the surveyed mostly Class A/B or C/D/E or what?  Were they from a particular geographic location or areas where it is considered a bailiwick (like Makati for Mr Binay)?  Were they from a particular group or age bracket (like, I suppose Ms Defensor-Santiago is strongest among the UP community)?

For another thing, it could be that Mr Duterte projects a fresh and new image, unlike all the other candidates (who may appear to come on as politicians, people who are perceived to have a propensity towards compromises and horse trading, especially when influential people come calling).  Mr Duterte seems to be projecting an image of a no-nonsense guy who is willing to make huge and unpopular sacrifices in the name of nationalism.  I myself am fed up with leaders who put economics ahead of sovereignty and national dignity because the “gains” that are argued in exchange for making such sacrifices only benefit the rich and the powerful.  The man on the street does not feel any of the effects of FDIs and all those highfaluting economic terminologies.  The trickle-down effect, developed by and which won Mr Milton Friedman his Nobel prize, benefits only the rich.  It is good in theory but he forgot to factor in greed.  When greed enters the picture, nothing trickles down anymore; it enters and stops at the top.

For yet another thing, it could be that Mr Duterte has a no-nonsense, no-quarters-given, shoot-from-the-hips, do-not-dare-me kind of guy which describes the common tough-guy image that most man-on-the-street macho-minded and -conscious Filipino envisions himself.  Moreover, the controversy with the Pope and the rape issue did not put a (significant) dent in his high ratings and this would suggest that a great many voters, even Catholics, understand that Mr Duterte has a tendency of speaking as a lawyer (which is direct and pull no punches) so they are not surprised and are forgiving when Mr Duterte was crass with his statements.

For what it is worth, it is likewise probable that the Philippine electorate has not yet (really) matured and shifted to issue-oriented rather than the traditional personality-oriented mindset.  Perhaps, for the Philippine voter, perception is still greater than reality or is it that we chose perception over reality.  It is true that perception is just as — or sometimes even more — important as reality, for it has been said that “Cæsar’s wife must not only be chaste, she must (likewise) appear to be chaste.”

Perhaps the surveyed can identify with Mr Duterte instead of the other candidates.  This could be attributed to the predominant ATTITUDE of the average CDE Filipino of a macho image — though it may be in a bad or negative way.  Or perhaps it is the Filipino’s propensity to root for the underdog — the more detractors assail Mr Duterte, the more the surveyed go over to his side…probably from feeling sorry for him, for being bullied.  Whatever the cause, the whole point is to get the votes.

Personally, my perceptions are the following: (1) Mr Roxas [decent, rich, cultured, and silver-spoon-in-mouth]; (2) Mr Binay [rags-to-riches (and power), shrewd and calculating and cunning, Machiavellian, and “resourceful”]; (3) Ms Poe [Western-bred, educated but still naïve in politics, idealistic but impressionable, nothing-to-hide, and good-natured]; and, (4) Ms Defensor-Santiago [“elitist” and UP-mentality (superiority), knowledgeable and well-read, sometimes unpredictable, loose-cannon, and enjoys the limelight and adulation].  Remember these are but perceptions and do not necessarily reflect the truth regarding the candidates and descriptions are neither intended to denigrate nor demean nor cast them in a bad light.

To me, Mr Roxas would be ideal but he comes across to the average Filipino as a rich man who has lived a sheltered life and does not know much about the plights of the common man, especially the poor which make up the bulk of the electorate.  He appears to have some notion of the problems of the poor but are mostly superficial or not substantial enough.  He is as close to being a gentleman as can be among the male candidates — but I am speaking from what I have read and heard about him…nothing more.

To me, Mr Binay exudes the personality of a shrew politician, tempered and honed by the experiences of the years in public office and refuses to come clean on issues hurled at him (and his family) even if they may be baseless or below his dignity to respond to.  Still, he can be credited for the “benefits and improvements” of his “domain” and has the ability to make things happen.  He appears to mimic several “techniques” of the late Ferdinand Marcos and appears likewise to have adopted and adapted quite a few of the latter’s strategies to suit and in the pursuit of his needs and ends.  He is cunning and a dangerous man to go up against.

To me, Ms Poe represents a Westernized approach with a refreshing transparency and openness and an apparent desire to really serve and help.  She somehow comes across as someone who truly seems to care about what happens to the country — whether the people treat or consider or even the courts rule her as a foundling, a foreigner, or whatever.  She appears to be sincerely trying to make things right and to continue the derailed dream of her late father.  [Note: It does not necessarily follow that only a citizen of a country can or will have a true concern for the country.  It is no longer a reliable or a valid reason to say that only a citizen can love his/her country.  This is being a bigot.]  She is a fresh face in Philippine politics and represents hope to many, especially among the more jaded and disillusioned from the contemporary Philippine politics.

To me, Ms Defensor-Santiago presents a brilliant but somewhat “unstable” — “unpredictably predictable” would be a more appropriate description but I feel it does not really capture the essence of what I mean to convey — personality.  She is, without a doubt, knowledgeable and very proficient in oratorics and admittedly fantastic in exposés and rules of law (and the constitution).  However, she still has her occasional lapses and this makes it risky because such lapses have a significant impact on the country.  It would be a different situation altogether should she be in a much more ordinary status — not in politics or government or any position or status that can significantly influence a sizable chunk of the public.  It is a risk with too high a stake and cost.  She is good to have as an adviser but I would draw the line when it comes to positions higher than a senator.  Finally, what is in her favor is that she has had lots of experience in government — considering that she was in the judiciary, now in the legislative, and is seeking for the executive.  She is a formidable adversary and you would want her to be on your side in any argument.

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