PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte has made history. PulseAsia reported on Monday that based on its September poll, Duterte had a performance rating of 91 percent, up 4 points from its December 2019 poll. That level of popular support is unprecedented. Nobody expected that.
That is the highest approval, performance, or satisfaction rating ever given to a Philippine president — or to a leader of any country in the world — since such polls were started. The highest rating that President Corazon Aquino got was in October 1986, when 82 percent of Filipinos supported her. Her support rapidly fell, however, so that by April 1992, only 58 percent did.
By contrast, Duterte’s support has been steadily rising — from 78 percent in March 2017 to 88 percent in June 2018, to 87 percent in December 2019 and 91 percent last month.
Any statistician will tell you that with the survey’s 3 percentage points plus-or-minus margin of error, that 91 percent approval virtually points to an outstanding phenomenon — that practically the entire nation supports this president. Nobody is listening to the likes of Philippine Daily Inquirer columnists, that online news site, US and Western media, the Yellows and the Reds. Duterte has in fact united the country under his leadership.
Unless that PulseAsia poll could be proven to be totally flawed, it points to a stunning fact: Duterte has how become a Philippine political demigod in that very sparse pantheon consisting of Rizal, Bonifacio, Aguinaldo and ironically, as he was as much supported by the Americans as Duterte is being undermined by them, Ramon Magsaysay.
Duterte has attained escape velocity, and has reached orbit around the Philippine political planet, and nothing can bring him down now. Trump’s prophetic line before the 2016 elections could very well apply to Duterte, which would bring nightmares to the Yellows and Reds: “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody, and I wouldn’t lose any voters.”
It’s about a year and half to the next presidential elections in the Philippines. As happened in most of the world after the 1917-1918 Spanish flu pandemic (in the US the roaring ‘20s), the country would likely have an economic boom next year, as people’s consumption appetites are unleashed, which would even expand popular support for Duterte.
Unless the Covid-19 pandemic here gets out of hand, the next president would be whoever Duterte says Filipinos should put in power. The PulseAsia poll is telling politicians: If you want your political career to advance, do not cross Duterte.
Check the accompanying chart, if you think, like that academic punk from Singapore ANC recently interviewed as its expert, that Duterte’s recent performance rating is merely what one would expect for populist strongmen during a crisis.
Duterte’s 91 percent is a quantum leap from the rest of these mostly strongmen leaders, I managed to get data on. I cannot find any poll that a country’s leader has had even a rating above 80 percent. That’s why I say the findings of the recent PulseAsia poll means the political deification of Duterte.
Duterte’s almost universal support in this country is remarkable in that the past nine months to September have been incontestably the worst period in our post-war history, even eclipsing the 1984-1985 political-economic crisis. The pandemic shut down most of our economy for at least five months. The latest World Bank estimate is that the GDP will contract 6.9 percent this year. Because of the business closures, over 3 million Filipinos were thrown out of their jobs.
Duterte is responsible for the closure of the mighty ABS-CBN Corp., one of the two most powerful and influential broadcast media organizations. Of all times, the massive corruption involving billions of pesos at Philippine Health Corp. has been exposed. Duterte’s handpicked man to clean the agency of graft, a retired general, Ricardo Morales, has proven to be totally inutile in his job or worse, complicit in its web of corruption. The US and Western media all portrayed Duterte as a ruthless dictator in Asia, and among the world’s hated strongmen. “A presidency bathed in blood,” Columbia Journalism School’s Sheila Coronel titled her article on Duterte.
Duterte’s four public appearances since the pandemic broke out in March were PR nightmares: he was rambling as much as he seemed sleepy, made preposterous claims such as using gasoline to clean face masks, and blurted out his usual p****g i**. It wasn’t as disastrous as it was in many other countries in the world, it wasn’t spectacular either. That would have been terrible for an ordinary president: Filipinos have a habit of blaming everything on the president.
Because of his policy of drawing the country closer to China and reversing his predecessor’s servility to the US, the American Deep State has launched an intense campaign to demonize him, so that he would be powerless to determine the next Philippine president.
Even my colleague Ramon Tulfo — Duterte’s longtime friend and supporter and who in his five decades of journalism has built up a vast network of sources — has started to think that he may be losing his way, and his inner circle has metamorphosed into a den of thieves. To be frank I myself had thought that Duterte has become weary and has been losing the fire in his belly, and that his people had gone on that traditional last-five-minutes-to-amass-your-retirement-funds tack.
Despite all these, 91 percent of Filipinos judged him as doing well. Perhaps we in the petty bourgeois thinking class can never really grasp what the nation really feels.