Political Tidbits is the prestigious column of Belinda Olivares-Cunanan that ran for 25 continuous years in the op-ed page of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, the newspaper that she helped put up with its multi-awarded founder, the legendary Eugenia Duran-Apostol, in December 1985, just two months before the EDSA Revolution.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Just what kind of CHANGE can President Duterte effect for us Filipinos desperate about our plight? A lot of anxiety and nervousness over his election would be allayed if his advisers surface and political veterans like Manny Villar would join his Cabinet. There's talk that Gilbert Teodoro would come in as Foreign Secretary. FVR seen clenched-fist at Amado Valdez' May 07 birthday party, while Mike Arroyo sported Duterte ballers at Corona wake. Would VP candidate Leni Robredo or Bongbong Marcos be able to work with new President?

Monday, May 09, 2016

As I dash off this blog late Monday evening, election day, it’s easy to see that Davao Mayor Rodrigo Duterte is headed for a landslide victory.  In all the regions of the country, he appears to be leading except in Region VI, the Western Visayas, where LP candidate Mar Roxas overwhelmed him. There will be endless analyzing of what  the phenomenon of Digong Duterte is all about.

I’d like to quote former Sen. Manny Villar at the musical soiree featuring young violin virtuoso Joaquin Maria “Chino” Gutierrez at the Makati home of the widow of Sen. Joker Arroyo, Fely Aquino-Arroyo. Villar termed the Duterte phenomenon as simply a “fanaticism” after he and his wife, Sen. Cynthia Villar, saw how in a recent visit to their bailiwick, Las Pinas City, it took Duterte five hours to navigate the less than 1.5 km. main avenue!  Manny recalled that the people just kept pouring into the street to see Digong, and he stressed that the last time he saw this phenomenon was when Cory Aquino was campaigning against Ferdinand Marcos in 1983. 

Other people were reminded of the "brown shirts" of Hitler in another era. Said an analyst: Duterte is a political "Yolanda" ---more than just a tidal wave!

I agree wholeheartedly on the "fanaticism." I have been covering presidential elections since Cory ran and it’s only now that this seemingly insane fanaticism has re-appeared in the person of Duterte. I understand that Ramon Magsaysay was hugely popular after the corrupt Quirino regime, but it was not quite the same.  Digong's campaign has far more fanatic fervor. 


I think the Duterte phenomenon is a combination of many factors.  First, there’s the coarseness about the man---his thick Visayan accent, his rugged looks and get-up (how would he look in a black-tie dinner at Malacanang or in the White House, hosted by President Hillary Clinton? This I have to see.), his cursing and his self-deprecating humor.  Senatorial candidate Greco Belgica, who fought the DAP and the PDAF anomalies in the Supreme Court, told me at the recent wake for Chief Justice Renato Corona, “Tita Bel, the more Duterte would curse in the campaign, the more the crowds lapped it up.” 

We all thought he would self-destruct with that deplorable jest-in-rape remark but he did not. The Tribune published the terrible contents of a psychiatric report on him after his separation from his first wife, which would have permanently damaged another candidate, but Duterte survived it. 


But more than anything, it’s the contrast the 22-year Davao City mayor presents to the limp, colorless and inept image of President Aquino and the establishment he represents. Note that Duterte made the tycoons of the Makati Business Club crawl up the wall when he appeared before them, irreverent and spewing colored jokes. MBC stalwart Ramon del Rosario Jr., plainly mortified, sought to rally people vs. the iconoclastic Mindanao leader but that didn’t dent the latter one bit. In fact the common tao must have relished the rather disrespectful treatment the MBC demi-gods got.

Note too, that all the accusations about questionable bank accounts that Sen. Antonio Trillanes threw across Duterte’s path didn’t seem to make the public blink. It was the senator who was damaged.

At the eleventh hour the Church sought to divert him from the course through a pastoral letter issued by Archbishop Socrates Villegas, president of the CBCP. The National Transformation Council (NTC), represented by two former CBCP Presidents (Davao Emeritus Archbishop Fernando Capalla and Lingayen Emeritus Archbishop Oscar Cruz) and one active archbishop (the outspoken Ramon Arguelles of Lipa), also weighed in, calling for a principled boycott of the elections last Saturday morning. Both to no avail.  


It has been pointed out often enough by various media analysts that Duterte represents a rebellion, a protest vote, outrage vs. the P-Noy administration. In fact a post going around refers to how P-Noy "created" this phenomenon through his ineptitude.  

Consider this editorial of the Manila Standard today, titled “Season of Fear,”: “...Had the President not squandered his first years in office, billions of pesos in public funds, and his considerable political capital to persecute and jail his opponents, and focused instead on implementing projects that would benefit more middle-income and poor Filipinos, a demagogue  running only on a vague promise of change would most likely not be the election front-runner today...”


A year ago, Vice President Jejomar Binay was conceded to be the front-runner in the presidential derby. Then six months ago Sen. Grace Poe emerged and slowly dislodged Binay. Three months ago, however, Rodrigo Duterte suddenly appeared in the political scene and there was no stopping him---Poe had to play second fiddle. Duterte came to personify the masa---the Pinoy Everyman--- but the wonder is that in his rallies, as media noted, expensive cars were also parked.  He was cutting into all the social classes that are bound by a common disgust for the dying administration's inaction and insensitivity to everyday problems---the traffic, drugs, trains that don't work or are leaking, Mamasapano, Kidapawan, tanim-bala, etc.

Duterte's magic consists of the promise of CHANGE that Filipinos now desperately long for, but what kind of change would that be? Can he really achieve it? 


Even before the final tally comes in, there’s already a lot of understandable nervousness and anxiety about President-elect Digong Duterte---about where he wants to lead this country wracked by bitter partisan strife, about how he proposes to sustain economic growth and rescue the broad masses of the poor, how he would balance his declared campaign vs. criminality and drugs with human rights and the courts, etc., etc. 

As the Makati demi-gods noted in that famous MBC encounter, the Davao Mayor offered no road-map to anything much, only wise-cracks and risque jokes. 

If there's a brain-trust behind Duterte, it's not known. It would help very much to allay the people's anxieties about him if his advisers came forward, aside from Star columnist Chit Pedrosa and former exile Joe Alejandrino. FVR. queried at the Tower Club reception celebrating Dean Amado Valdez' 70th birthday, smiled away involvement with Duterte, but in the end he raised the clenched fist.  Former First Gentleman Mike Arroyo sported Duterte ballers at the wake of Chief Justice Renato Corona. 


How Duterte's Cabinet would shape up would matter much. given such an impromptu ad-hoc personality as Chief Executive. For instance, political veteran and former presidential candidate Manny Villar would make an excellent Secretary of Local Government. There's report that former Defense Chief Gilbert Teodoro, himself also once a presidential candidate, would come in as Secretary of Foreign Affairs or back to his old defense job.  

It would also be interesting how VP-apparent Bongbong Marcos would interact with Duterte. Would they be able to work together? What post would he offer to the youthful new VP?

So many big question marks about this new phenomenon indeed. But first let's wait for the final tally.

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