IT is no surprise that Pinoy social media are not quite celebratory about this new President.
After all, the dominant voice of the middle and wealthy classes on social media was a pro-Roxas, anti-Duterte one—choosing between good and evil, continuity versus change, #DaangMatuwidPaMore versus #ChangeIsComing. It was the election battle simplified between notions of decency versus rape jokes, classy versus communist.
We never got around to processing the in-between, to finding out what exists between those two extremes. The next thing we knew it was election day and, lo and behold, the guy who had been painted as devil-incarnate by the present government won by a margin so huge, it was impossible to cheat him out of it.
The soundbites win
And of course the Duterte followers had to gloat. And many a Duterte supporter was on the offensive, practically denying the man’s human rights abuses, the extrajudicial killings and summary executions, the rape joke even. But all those were real, and there’s no point in denying it.
On the other side of the fence is matuwid-na-daan, whose supporters have been on overdrive, talking about the threat of a new martial rule with Duterte, blood flowing, and the rights of the people trampled upon. They have pointed a finger at those who voted for Duterte, saying they will be complicit in every human right violation that will happen under this leadership.
The eight-point economic agenda was critiqued for being exactly the same as PNoy’s current program, which makes one wonder: did we read any of the candidates’ platforms at all? Because on the level of policy and certainly in terms of public-private partnership, foreign investment, charter change for economic provisions, and continuing the 4Ps, all the candidates were on the same page.
The competition was always about how these were going to be done differently by each candidate, or in the case of an election where people didn’t read platforms and media didn’t care enough to discuss these either, it was a matter of how each candidate sold this to the public.
Duterte obviously won that contest, via soundbites and the most basic track record. Despite rape jokes and human rights record.
I did not vote for Duterte. But I respect the fact that he won.
Respecting this win does not mean ignoring the fact of his human-rights record. It means being prepared, being extra vigilant about how he will implement that peace-and-order program on a national scale.
On Facebook, a friend who lives in Singapore had wondered “out loud” what her Pinoy friends think of the new President-elect. It became a battleground between an American documentarist, who harped on Duterte’s human rights record and seemed to want all the Filipinos on that thread to agree with him, and the Filipinos on that thread who did not vote for Duterte but were willing to give him a chance.
Because it seems that is where we should be at this point. It’s where we started with Presidents before Duterte. We would give them a hundred days, a year, to get their act together. With PNoy we were even more forgiving.
Of course PNoy had no track record to speak of before he became President, and so our take-off point for him was pretty much nothing but his promises of no corruption and no wangwang. The President-to-be has a track record in Davao, which is the basis of both what’s good and bad about him. The good is what got him elected, the bad is what those who did not vote for him are using against him now that he has won.
Spin against Duterte
It is the latter that has dominated the conversation so far on Pinoy social media, given the tendency to poke fun at and question everything that he says, where what might be praised is ignored, and what can be made controversial is spun against him.
Listening to Duterte speak at length for the first time on May 16 what I realized was that while there were statements that made me shake my head, or laugh out loud, taken as a whole it made sense coming from the President-elect. The promises he intends to keep are what he repeats: peace and order in our communities, from drugs and crime, to vagrancy and noise pollution. Like the Presidents before him, the people he wants to appoint into his Cabinet are the people he trusts.
And yes, let us scrutinize those appointments given what we know of those people. But to harp on the curfew for minors, or the no-karaoke rule after 10 p.m., or the no drinking on the streets, or the no smoking inside buildings—all of which are already city ordinances that are not being implemented or followed—that just seems petty at this point. Let these be implemented and let’s rise to the occasion in our communities if/when we see the barangay captains and police abusing their authority.
To say that he is micromanaging our barangays is also to miss the point. If one listened at all to Duterte last Monday, one would understand better what his appeal was to those who voted for him. He will rule with an iron fist, but he will do so by imploring us all to get our shit together as members of the communities we belong to. He acknowledges the irony of having a mayor as President, and sometimes seems to disbelieve it just like we do.
This self-awareness is refreshing. It is also a welcome respite from the egos of Presidents and leaders before him. Egos that are as large as the haciendas and azucareras they protect, egos that are as indestructible as the names and social class upon which they stand.
Duterte has a lot to prove, yes. But not any more or less than the Presidents before him. Certainly he deserves as much leeway as the rest of them.