The May 9 election is a mere few days away. The talk of the town for the past weeks has been the phenomenal rise of former Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte. His brash manner of responding and acting on issues is highly unusual for a presidential candidate, but it has earned him a lot of loyal followers. Why?
Well, Duterte represented everything that the Aquino government is not. He promises swift action on problems, so different from the Aquino administration, which has often been accused of delayed responses during emergency situations, dilly dallying on issues, and bungling of sensitive operations.
Duterte has been accused often of taking shortcuts, an example of which is the extrajudicial killings of suspected criminals in Davao City, while President Aquino has a penchant for hiding behind legal processes and inane alibis when being accused of slow responses and inaction on situations.
Duterte has endeared himself on the ordinary folk while the Aquino administration has been accused of being heartless when it comes to the welfare of the masses, such as when it vetoed the proposed increase in pensions and when it raised the fare for commuter trains.
Actually, if Duterte wins in the presidential elections, it would be an indictment of the “daang matuwid” of the Aquino administration.
This trend has been building up since those aiming for the presidency began jockeying for position and the public’s attention, which in this country began since the 2013-midterm elections.
The strong showing of the political party and candidates of Vice President Jejomar Binay during the 2013 elections made it appear that he was a shoo-in to the presidency. By then, Binay was the face of the opposition, even if he was still dilly-dallying then from decisively breaking away from the Aquino administration. But at least, he represented an alternative to President Aquino who was viewed as incompetent, snooty, a cacique and self-righteous. Binay boasts of what he did for the poor and senior citizens in Makati City and this boosted his candidacy. That was until the Aquino administration unleashed its demolition job on Binay and exposed his questionable transactions.
Then there emerged a fresh hope in Senator Grace Poe who, during the height of the Senate investigation on the anomalies and bungling of the MRT commuter train system, patiently waited for her turn to ride the train amid the long rush hour queue. This she did to get a feel of what commuters have to go through everyday.
When Senator Grace Poe expressed her intention to join the presidential race, her ratings immediately overtook that of Vice President Binay. She was accused by her rivals of being too ambitious and of being a puppet of her running mate Sen. Chiz Escudero, but it did not affect her ratings. Disqualification cases were filed against her to no avail. She was viewed as an alternative to the Aquino administration and what it represents. But she hesitated in hitting hard. Initially, she even packaged herself as a continuation of the Aquino administration’s “daang matuwid” while being its alternative. She was viewed, therefore, as a moderate opposition. She even declared that she would be reappointing “performing” members of Aquino’s Cabinet.
However, without corruption issues weighing her down, she continued to top the surveys. That was until Duterte declared his candidacy for president.
Duterte immediately hit hard at the Aquino administration. Even to the point of challenging President Aquino’s anointed candidate Mar Roxas to a fistfight and gun duel.
Duterte even identified himself with the Left, declaring that he is a socialist, and the far Right, by citing his friendship with the late dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos and his family. These are the groups that the Aquino administration hated to the core. President Aquino’s parents, the late Ninoy and Cory Aquino, were considered as the archrivals of Marcos.
As for the Left, President Aquino never even went to the motion of talking peace with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines, immediately scuttling the talks when it took over. President Aquino is one of the few, if not the only president, after Marcos who never released a political prisoner as a goodwill measure nor for humanitarian considerations. Even the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos released some political prisoners, yielding to pressures from the local and international community. But Aquino the son never did despite calls from the local and international community, while her mother Cory released the most number of political prisoners during her term.
Aquino’s anointed Mar Roxas has been recently presenting himself as the opposite of Duterte in a desperate effort to bag the presidency. This he has been doing after Duterte’s inappropriate remarks regarding the rape of an Australian missionary earned him some flak and the demolition job on him – the alleged exposé of his undeclared bank accounts and properties – kicked in.
But Roxas got it all wrong. The phenomenal rise of Duterte is not only because of who he is. His rise is also an indictment of the Aquino administration and what it represents. This is why, despite the flak and the demolition job, Duterte is still topping the surveys. No way would Roxas win by representing himself as a continuation of the Aquino administration, except, of course, through the invisible hand that manipulates surveys and the Commission on Elections.