Why Duterte won despite himself

(The Philippine Star) - June 29, 2016 - 11:43am
MANILA, Philippines – So how did the brash, tough-talking and irreverent Rodrigo Duterte capture the hearts and minds of 16.6 million voters or more than a third of the voter turnout?
 
For political analysts and image experts, Duterte showed the Filipinos something new.
 
He was seen as a politician who challenged authority; a candidate who articulated what ordinary folks always wanted to blurt out but were too afraid to do so; a public servant who emphasizes actions rather than words; a maverick determined to get the job done no matter the cost.
 
But most importantly, Duterte knew what the voters wanted to hear. And he delivered it to them in a language – often bombastic and profanity-laced – that they understood.
 
“People prefer him because he tackles the issues the common people deal with everyday… Others’ platforms are far from their experiences like national economy and globalization,” said Dennis Coronacion, Political Science professor at the University of Santo Tomas.
 
Coronacion said Duterte, who promised to suppress crime and corruption within three to six months, is aware of the needs of the people at the ground level, having worked as mayor of Davao City for more than two decades.
 
“Before the 2016 elections, no one would dare follow him, to do what he did, because the traditional image of a politician is religious, merciful, should not curse, morally upright and courteous. He is the opposite of that,” Coronacion said.
 
“There are times that a gentleman, the one with refined attitude, is better but there are times that people don't care anymore about his attitude, as long as he can deliver,” he added.
 
Clarita Carlos, a political analyst at the University of the Philippines, said Duterte won because he promised change and did not campaign like a traditional politician. She said Duterte is a “game changer” who “does not care about PR (public relations).”
 
“His blunt, frank style is what we need, not some flowery words. We need results. We are in for some exciting and challenging times,” Carlos added.
 

Track record

 
For Anne Briones, a marketing practitioner who works for one of the largest banks in the country, Duterte’s track record in Davao City served as his advantage during the election. Duterte has been credited for transforming the city from a murder haven to a progressive urban center.
 
“I think Duterte won because he was not like the other candidates, his words and promises were made solid by Davao City, it being the example of what he plans to do to the country,” Briones said.
 
“His way of governance is different from the previous administrations and he was seen as different from other candidates. Davao was the epitome of his promises and words,” she added.
 
Clarence Batan, a sociologist at the University of Santo Tomas, said Duterte’s governance background allowed him to assert his views and his plans. He described Dutetre’s approach as “creative, inventive and humorous.”
 
“He has this gamut of vocabularies,” Batan said.
 
Marketing practitioner Aaron Cruz said Duterte adopted a “demagogue” approach, wherein a leader highlighted the common need of society rather than use rational arguments.
 
“Rodrigo Duterte tried a different approach in order to win the election… His opponents are so mainstream. People are so sick of that approach, where all promises are heard but not seen,” Cruz said.
 
“This was a really good approach. The Filipino people need an iron fist to assure them that those promises are not only said but also made.”
 
Duterte himself has attributed his successful campaign to proper messaging.
 
“I won. Why? Because I was the person carrying the right message – corruption in government, criminality. I will fulfill my promise regardless of who will be affected. I will stake my honor my life and presidency itself,” he said during his last flag ceremony as Davao City mayor last Monday.
 

'Protest vote'

 
Some believe Duterte’s phenomenal rise was borne out of people’s disappointment with the prevailing system, an environment that allowed criminals to prowl the streets, drug lords to enrich themselves and government officials to get kickbacks.
 
Institute for Political and Electoral Reform executive director Ramon Casiple said Duterte’s victory stemmed from voters’ “frustration with the justice system and criminality.”
 
Quezon Rep. Danilo Suarez said the votes for Duterte signified a “protest against the failure of the administration to solve the unabated rise of criminality.”
 
Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo believes the result of the 2016 presidential race manifested the Filipinos’ thirst for change.
 
“It’s a sign of desperation of the people. He is something new. Even if they do not know what kind of new is new (as long) as it promises something new,” Pabillo said.
 
“In a way, he (Duterte) is also a trapo (traditional politician) because he is also a member of a political dynasty. But he is not traditional in terms of style as well as the issues he wanted to address in the national level like criminality, (labor) contractualization and mining,” he added.
 
“That’s what the people are looking for. That was his promise – Change is coming. The next question is: Is it better or for the worse?”
 

Will politicians emulate Duterte?

 
Duterte admitted during the campaign that he was rude, a womanizer and a mediocre student. The mayor also claimed to have killed 1,700 people, earning him the title his fans seem to relish - “The Punisher.”
 
But despite – or maybe because of – his shocking statements, Duterte won by a landslide. For sure, image consultants are now trying to decipher his winning formula.
 
Some experts, however, doubt that other politicians will adopt Duterte’s style.
 
“That attitude only fits Duterte because he is naturally like that. He talks that way. He is frank. He is rude. If you are naturally a gentleman, up to the last moment you will be a gentleman, if you are soft-spoken you will always be soft-spoken,” Coronacion said.
 
“But sometimes [it] isn't good because it somewhat makes people accept extrajudicial killings. That attitude won't help when speaking to foreign dignitaries, leaders of other countries,” he added.
 
Briones noted that every politician has their “own unique style of leadership and governance.”
 
Carlos said the 71-year-old Duterte “has acquired a style which is from street smarts.”
 
“His (Duterte) language is peppered with cuss words but mainly for emphasis. I doubt others will follow his style,” she added.
 
Bhem Relevo, a supporter of defeated presidential candidate Manuel Roxas II, believes politicians will avoid emulating Duterte’s antics.
 
“Other politicians won’t do that, except the alter ego of Duterte. They won’t do that because in the first place, they know that doing those shameful acts is not appropriate for a leader, actually for anyone,” Relevo said.
 
A staff of returning senator Panfilo Lacson, who asked not to be named, was more blunt: “God, please No. Duterte is enough. We need decent, diplomatic politicians in this country.”
 
Pabillo is hopeful that Duterte will tweak his style so he can serve as a positive influence to his constituents.
 
“If not, we will (be dragged) into unnecessary conflicts. If he does not change, he will be a very bad role model for the youth,” the bishop said.
 
However, Duterte’s runningmate Sen. Alan Cayetano thinks the incoming president will not change his style to please his critics.
 
“Let’s get used to it. This president follows a different paradigm. He will not conform to the politically correct way of speaking just to please people,” Cayetano said in a recent interview in Davao City.
 
Duterte previously said that he would undergo a “metamorphosis” once he assumes the presidency. He, however, stressed that people should accept him for who he is.
 
“I really do not care who hates me,” Duterte said in a television interview last May.
 
“I would just like to be a working president.”

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