IN A recent video-streamed forum, the panelists were hard put trying to explain the Duterte phenomenon.
Here is a President who curses, cracks all sorts of vulgar jokes, acts beyond generally accepted social norms and yet gets away with it. Instead of being jeered as un-presidential, he is applauded and cheered by his audience.
According to both SWS and Pulse Asia, he has enjoyed the highest trust and acceptance ratings compared to his predecessors. Surprisingly, his popularity even cuts across classes and even across the world.
No doubt, he has his fair share of detractors -- from the academe, the religious, mainstream media, political opponents. But against them, Duterte has a solid core of 16 million Dutertards.
To what can we attribute this phenomenon? Charisma? Ability to connect with his crowd? Ability to evoke an emotional response?
He has succeeded in projecting himself as a probinsiyano mayor with no pretensions. He readily admits his ignorance of economics. The reason, he says, why he leaves his economic managers pretty much alone.
But he can also project himself as a strong and decisive leader. His posture of defiance against superpowers and his handling of Marawi are cases in point.
Over two decades as a "kanto boy"-type mayor, he has developed a flair for drama. Just take a look at how he ordered the destruction of several confiscated luxury cars with a back hoe. Not to forget the firing of an appointee for going on foreign trips once too many.
And thanks to his handlers too, he has come up with a strong narrative (supporting the police and the military come hell or high water, caring for the OFW), which he delights in personally repeating.
It also helps that he has retained a troll army whose main job is to magnify and re-echo his messages. Never mind if the truth is often stretched in the process.
The result is a very powerful, larger-than-life Duterte who can challenge and has, in fact, succeeded in disrupting the status quo.
The establishment probably had it coming. In so many ways, it has not lived up to the expectation of the average Filipino. The justice and criminal system, for example, works sooooo slowly. It is no surprise therefore to find the average Filipino welcoming legal shortcuts and the return of the death penalty and lapping up Duterte's rhetoric.
In a recent chance encounter with Finance Secretary Sonny Dominguez, I congratulated him for the recent passage of Train, which will fund this administration's "build, build, build" program.
But I also shared with him my personal concerns about the President's leadership style. Our next generation must have a good role model, I told Sonny.
Sonny just smiled: Why change it? It's working!
The Boracay Challenge
For years, authorities have been in denial that something was environmentally wrong with Boracay. A top tourism official even went swimming along its shores to show one and all that Boracay's waters were safe and pure.
But truth will eventually out. And last week it did. It took no less than the President to declare that when one bathes in Boracay nowadays, the swimmer comes out smelling like s..t.
As it turned out, none of the hundreds of tourist establishments that have mushroomed in Boracay over the years have installed waste treatment facilities. Toilet and kitchen waste are directly discharged into the sea. One does not need to be a rocket scientist to understand that eventually this untreated waste goes back to the shore.
But all is not lost. Here comes Manila Water which claims it can provide a waste treatment facility that can fix the problem of the island.
But why didn't local officials even think about it before hand?
I almost fell off my seat upon reading about a recent National Police Commission survey.
The survey showed that in Metro Manila (with 16 cities and 1 municipality), the Caloocan City Police Station enjoyed the highest trust rating. (88 per cent)
What next? Perhaps, the Napolcom will also announce the results of a future nation-wide survey, proclaiming Police Chief Inspector Jovie Espenido as "Most Outstanding COP."
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