High ratings: A perfect opportunity

- The Philippine Star

Judging from the latest Pulse Asia “Ulat ng Bayan” survey that showed President Rodrigo Duterte’s trust and approval ratings at an all time high of 80 percent and 82 percent respectively, there is no doubt a very large majority continue to believe in the leadership of the president. The most recent Social Weather Stations survey also showed that 83 percent of the people have “much trust” in the president, whose net satisfaction rating of +75 percent (“excellent”) reflected a 15-point increase from his September 2017 net satisfaction rating of +60 percent (“very high”).

There are many reasons why people continue to trust the president. They see him as a leader with the political will (“cojones” as some say) to bring about meaningful change that would result in the greater good especially for the poorest of the poor.

This president has his heart in the right place, passionate in his desire to make life better for Filipinos. He knows the mindset of the ordinary people, he is sensitive to their sentiment, he shares their frustrations and feels their anger. He speaks the language of the “common tao” – expressing their frustration and anger in colorful language that does not sugarcoat.

Members of the upper crust and the elite may feel uncomfortable when the president uses strong language to launch a tirade against corruption and denounce erring officials and their excesses, but ordinary folks appreciate his candor. “He tells it like it is, and he matches his strong words with action,” a taxicab driver explained, echoing the sentiment of many who approve the president’s decision to fire officials for squandering taxpayer money with their excesses.

Analysts also point to the Marawi crisis and the decisive victory that gave President Rody high approval ratings among the people. One thing for sure, I, like many others, have never seen this kind of leader ever before. President Duterte has changed politics in this country forever. You can be certain that there will be many copycats coming out of the woodwork.

In my years of being an observer, I have seen so many wasted opportunities in the past to really push for meaningful changes that would result in the greater good for the greater number of Filipinos. When Ferdinand Marcos was elected into office in 1965, people were hopeful that a new era of national greatness has been launched with the construction of roads, bridges, irrigation facilities and other key infrastructure projects that were seen to improve the quality of life of Filipinos. But the hope soon waned – resulting in the 1986 EDSA revolution that catapulted Cory Aquino into power.

The Marcos authoritarian rule was dismantled, the democratic system was restored – but the euphoria was short-lived as chronic blackouts, coup attempts, a disappointing land reform program plus a slow economy toward the end of Cory’s term squandered the high hopes of people.

During the time of Fidel Ramos, the Philippine economy looked promising with growth more than doubling at the beginning. The brownouts came to an end, investors were coming in – but perceptions that FVR wanted to extend his term, plus the 1997 Asian financial crisis largely negated the positives during the early part of Ramos’ term.

Joseph Estrada brought a new sense of hope among the marginalized who saw Erap as the hero who would help lift them out of poverty. But the consequent scandals and accusations of cronyism led to his ouster in 2001, with the elite perceived as the ones behind his impeachment.

On the day Gloria Arroyo took office, the stock market surged and the business sector became buoyant. However, controversies over the 2004 presidential elections with accusations of vote rigging hounded her second term, exacerbated by the scandals alleging corruption in high places.

Arroyo was succeeded by Noynoy Aquino who was catapulted to the presidency in 2010 following the outpouring of grief over the death of his mother in 2009. Although the economy showed promising growth, and while no hint of personal corruption tarnished his image during his term of office, the latter years of Aquino’s presidency saw people’s anger getting stoked by the Mamasapano massacre, the P10-billion pork barrel scam involving Janet Napoles, and believe it or not – traffic – all led to disillusionment, with people getting tired of hearing motherhood statements that eventually led to the victory of Davao City Mayor Rody Duterte whose brand of firebrand rhetoric resonated with the Filipino voting public.

In the words of the Center for Strategic International Studies’ Southeast Asia expert and our friend Ernie Bower, Filipinos wanted a “wrecking ball” who could rid the nation of crime and corruption.

There is no doubt the high ratings of the president present a perfect opportunity to push for the economic and structural reforms we need. The ambitious infrastructure program is expected to energize business and close the poverty gap by spurring development in areas outside Metro Manila. Great strides are being taken as seen in the passage of the TRAIN (Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion) bill and the 2018 national budget that prioritizes education and infrastructure development.

The Duterte administration’s economic team led by Finance Secretary Sonny Dominguez knows they must “strike while the iron is hot” as seen in the continued strong performance of the Philippine economy – the fastest growing economy in Southeast Asia according to the World Bank – that is projected to grow at least seven percent this year.

For those who are still skeptical and liken the Philippines to a plane waiting at the runway getting ready to take off but never taking off, fasten your seat belts – we’re already airborne.

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Email: [email protected]


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