For someone despised by human rights advocates and labelled a despot and butcher in the foreign press, Duterte returns to his native city of Davao as a private citizen deeply trusted by Filipinos. WTF, right?
By Joey Salgado
Former President Rodrigo Duterte was never a king, but for six years he wielded the powers of the presidency like a monarch. His word was law, his world-view narrow, his tolerance for criticism non-existent.
For six years his administration aimed vicious bloody blows at the Constitution, independent institutions, and the rule of law.
Civilized discourse and legitimate dissent, essential in a functioning democracy, labored under a constricted space. In those six years, we turned into a nation polarized by tribal and political affinities.
Throughout his presidency, he displayed a disregard for the lofty responsibilities of national stewardship. Instead of pushing for a more aggressive agenda to address chronic poverty, hunger, and underdevelopment - issues he acknowledged at the start of his administration - Duterte employed the awesome powers of the presidency to focus, even obsess, on the petty and political.
The rule of law, democratic space, governance, and civic engagement were casualties of this obsession.
These are Duterte’s gifts to his successor:
Cynicism and distrust of political insiders;
Two chambers of Congress with doubtful independence from the Executive;
A weakened opposition;
A public desperate for hope and comfort, especially after a crippling pandemic;
A younger generation who never experienced the dark years of martial law but disenchanted by the failings of all-post EDSA regimes.
Duterte also managed to achieve what previous presidents have failed to do: he was able to sustain his high approval and trust ratings until the end of his term.
In Pulse Asia’s March 2022 survey, the last to be conducted under his presidency, Duterte garnered an impressive performance rating of 73 per cent, and a trust rating of 71 per cent.
Says a report by GMA News Online, “Duterte’s popularity has hardly been dented in his six years as President; his lowest rating would have been a comparatively high mark for his predecessors.”
“Gloria Macapagal Arroyo only occasionally made it above the teens in her last three years in office, while Benigno S. Aquino's ratings generally declined from 78 per cent in October 2010 to 39 per cent in July 2016 as he made way for Duterte. Joseph Estrada, meanwhile, was at 71per cent approval in May 1999 and 38 per cent in December 2000, a month before his resignation,” the reports adds.
Duterte’s high ratings in March cut across economic classes, with class ABC - segments of whom style themselves as the thinking class - giving him a rating of 77 per cent, and Class D - the broad middle class - 73 per cent. His lowest score came from the so-called masa, but it was still a high 72 per cent.
Perplexing, if not infuriating, is that he enjoyed these high approval ratings alongside high levels of self-rated poverty and low ratings for certain government programs.
Without a doubt, the phenomenon that is Duterte will be scrutinized and debated by social scientists, political psychologists, perception experts, political junkies, and your neighborhood tambays for years to come.
For someone despised by human rights advocates and labelled a despot and butcher in the foreign press, Duterte returns to his native city of Davao as a private citizen acclaimed for his work and deeply trusted by Filipinos. WTF, right?
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