BASED on the latest Social Weather Stations’ poll, President Duterte has emerged as the most popular president in our post-EDSA history, with a remarkable 80 percent of Filipinos satisfied with his leadership.
SWS data show that for the three years that he has been power, Duterte’s net satisfaction rating (percent satisfied minus dissatisfied) averaged 59 percent, trouncing the 44 percent in the same period of Corazon Aquino who, conventional wisdom says, was the country’s most popular president, being the near saintly heroine of Philippine democracy.
That is significant in itself as there has been a non-stop, intense and well-financed propaganda effort from the Left and the Yellows, as well as American media, that Duterte is Cory’s antithesis, an authoritarian who will soon do a Marcos, that is, declare martial law to establish one-man rule.
There has been practically a cottage industry of opinion pieces and articles by academics abroad trying to explain — or explain away — Duterte’s popularity.
The most harebrained — and academically pretentious — is the one which claims that it is a “function of mass propaganda and deception.” That writer, with his usual penchant of trying to impress his readers that he’s read a lot of books, also claims that Duterte’s “authoritarian brand of populism is in tune with the political zeitgeist.”
In just one sentence, that commentator commits two logical fallacies. First is begging the question. He assumes what needs to be proved, that Duterte is an “authoritarian populist.” The second is tautological: Duterte is popular because he is “in tune with the “spirit of the times,” i.e. the most popular way of looking at the world at a particular time.
The most reasonable explanation for Duterte’s popularity would be to use the philosophical principle called Occam’s Razor – my apologies, that writer’s disease of trying to impress people with academic terms is highly infectious. Occam says that among explanations for an occurrence, the one that requires the least speculation, and least assumptions, is usually correct. The simplest is the truest.
That is, you don’t have to wrack your brains with highfalutin’ terms and complex ideas to understand that Duterte is popular simply because he is doing his work.
He is delivering the services Filipinos expect of their government, among them: personal security in their communities (which the illegal drug problem had seriously threatened), clamping down on tax evaders, running the (mass transit) trains on time, universal health program, free tertiary education, lower tax rates for the lower and middle classes, reversal of what would have been a disastrous anti-China foreign policy (remember the tons of bananas rotting in a Chinese port in 2012), and of course the massive infrastructure program that this year will make Filipinos wonder — why only now?
As a media man, what I found very significant about Duterte’s popularity — and a confirmation that one can’t escape on-the-ground reality — is that it has been unaffected by the power of oligarch-owned local mainstream media and those of the US.
Print and broadcast media here have had a decidedly anti-Duterte bias, especially the Philippine Daily Inquirer, ABS-CBN Broadcasting Corp., and the foreign-funded internet-only Rappler. US and Western media have been in a frenzy of painting Duterte’s war against illegal drugs to be, as the recent Amnesty International report claims so falsely, merely a “large-scale murdering enterprise.”
Alleged tax-evader Maria Ressa has been on a tour of the US claiming that she is being persecuted because of her outfit Rappler’s critical coverage of this administration. American media swallow her every lie hook, line and sinker — because she is a an American, one of them, a former CNN correspondent.
I haven’t seen any such media ferocity and intensity that disregards facts on the ground in order to portray Duterte as a president presiding over a regime — as Sheila Coronel of the Columbia School of Journalism sensationally wrote — “bathed in blood.”
Few Filipinos obviously believe Ressa, Coronel and their ilk, with Duterte’s popularity (based on net satisfaction ratings) rising from 64 percent when he assumed power to June 2019’s 68 percent. What they and US media have convinced are outfits like Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and the bureaucrats of the UN and the European Union, who really are too lazy to check the facts and put them in context.
He has enfeebled these kinds of outfits, with Duterte’s high popularity ratings in essence proving that they are liars.