Political miscalculation
BABE’S EYE VIEW FROM WASHINGTON D.C. - Babe Romualdez (The Philippine Star) - May 19, 2019 - 12:00am

It is simply pathetic that the political “elite” rode on a campaign message that cast their candidates as the only choice for people who are decent, patriotic, and righteous – and that those who would not vote for them are stupid, rude, crude, ill-mannered and unthinking “bozos.”

Well, they totally misread the voting public and were in for a rude awakening. As we all know now, based on the unofficial tally, the opposition has been completely shut out, with none from the Otso Diretso slate making it. 

Many of my wealthy friends who are supporters of the opposition may disagree, but the results are a stinging, in-your-face rebuke against the “quehorror” and “quebarbaridad” group afflicted with the “cacique” mentality. The old “kami lang ang magaling at pwede” condescending attitude was completely rebuked. The days of the Spanish colonial encomienda system has long ago passed – time to wake up to reality. It also didn’t help that some church leaders openly showed their preference for the opposition candidates – giving a “holier-than-thou” tone. 

Let’s put it this way:  If you want to convince people to vote for your candidates, insulting them by calling them stupid and uneducated is definitely not the way to go. As one comment on social media went: “Nililigawan mo pero iniinsulto mo, tapos iyak ka pag binasted ka!” (You’re courting a woman but you insult her, then whine if she thumbs you down!) 

The yellow group clearly miscalculated – they targeted the wrong person. Instead of talking extensively about their platform, they criticized the president and his war against drugs. They focused their firepower against a vastly popular president, framing the midterm elections as a referendum on his performance in the last three years. But President Duterte took up the gauntlet with equanimity, saying, “It could be taken as a referendum, so if you agree with me, then you can vote for my candidates or the people I am supporting this election.” Obviously, the people agreed with the president, seen in the case of Bong Go, Bato dela Rosa and Francis Tolentino who initially did not rank high up in the surveys but steadily rose in the consciousness of the electorate. 

Even the president’s colorful language – which makes the “quebarbaridad” clique cringe in horror – was made into an election issue. Again, this proves just how badly the opposition misread the majority of the electorate. The fact is, one of the reasons why Mayor Duterte was propelled to the presidency was this sense of authenticity that he emanated. His unconventional style resonated with the ordinary people who prefer straight talk over empty rhetoric. To the working class, the last three years has shown that the president is a man who can get things moving. Simply put – “hindi na pwede ang puro drawing at isang kulay lang.”

 Like it or not, Duterte has become a symbol of the majority’s hope for meaningful change, made possible by his strong political will. This was evident when he remained adamant in his decision to close Boracay and have it rehabilitated despite the gloom and doom scenario painted by critics who said the move would kill the tourism industry not only in the island but in the country. 

As it is, the verdict was overwhelming. Once again, the president proved that he has the loyal backing of the working class who felt nothing happened to their lives in the aftermath of the EDSA People Power Revolution. It is very clear, Duterte’s phenomenal rise was the result of “grievance politics” fueled by the frustration of Filipinos who have grown weary waiting for the promise of change that remained unfulfilled three decades after EDSA – which ordinary people came to resent because they saw it as nothing but a shallow democracy solely for the benefit of the rich.   

One other sector that most likely contributed to the overwhelming victory of the senatorial candidates endorsed by or affiliated with the administration are the families of overseas Filipino workers who are convinced that their needs are being prioritized by this government. They believe that the president means it when he says he has their welfare and safety at heart. A case in point – the deployment ban to Kuwait last year in the aftermath of a domestic worker’s murder, whose body was found in a freezer. The ban was only lifted when Kuwait and the Philippines signed a memorandum of understanding that would give more protection to Filipinos working in the host country.

It’s unfortunate that we hear all kinds of “Viber” talk from the elitists who are unable to accept the election results – commenting that “it’s time to migrate.” It is precisely this kind of defeatist mentality that negates the essence of building our democratic institutions. Instead of trying to work for changes, these people simply bury their heads in the sand. They rant and rave, claiming democracy is dead. The reality is – left-leaning groups that advocate the violent overthrow of the duly-elected government lost in this election. If anything, those who belong to the political elite should be grateful that democracy is very much alive – the long simmering social volcano is at the very least under control.  

The political landscape has totally changed. Voters want to see different colors across the political spectrum – whites, greens, blues – and not just yellow.  

One thing is certain: The President has decapitated the elite’s hold on the country’s political power and wealth. Duterte is a product of his time – he has changed the way politics is conducted in this country. Hopefully all this for the better.

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Email: babeseyeview@gmail.com

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