THE virus (officially called the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2) could mutate to a deadlier, more communicable form, or it could dissipate as did the “Spanish flu” in 1918. The Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) that President Duterte had designated to handle the government’s efforts to contain the pandemic will be more efficient in its work, or it will prove powerless in the face of the tsunami of infections.
These hypotheticals will determine how our country will look like for the rest of this decade. If the pandemic is not contained either due to the virus’ mutation so that it overwhelms our health services and science, or as a result of the IATF’s mismanagement (as happened in the US, Europe and Brazil), President Duterte would be a lame-duck president.
His political support and mass popularity will collapse. When death and pestilence surrounds a people, their rationality vanishes, and they would be blaming the “father of the nation,” no matter the amount of good that he has done, and seek a new savior. Again and again demonstrated in politics, to drastically paraphrase Shakespeare, it is a president’s failures, whether avoidable or otherwise, that people remember; the good is forgotten.
If this were to happen, and it is now only 13 months to the national elections in May 2022, Duterte’s endorsement of a candidate would be a kiss of death, and the Yellows or some other opposition would assume power in July 2022, reversing all of Duterte’s policies, even his kind of strong governance.
But if the pandemic is contained in the next three months, Filipinos’ satisfaction with Duterte will hit the roof, not just because of irrational exuberance that it was all due to presidential leadership. There likely will be an economic boom – our version of the “Roaring 20’s” in the US after the 1917-1918 Spanish flu epidemic – as business capacity, idled in the lockdowns, will be exploding while consumers will be buying and traveling so much, thankful that they’re alive. (more…)