Were Mr. Aquino not term-limited and could put his name on the 2016 ballot, there would be no question as to the outcome. He would rank third in a hypothetical presidential race of five, with his total not even close to the votes of the 2nd placer. There is, however, a 100 percent certainty that the richest Zip Codes in the country would vote overwhelmingly for Mr. Aquino.
At this stage of the nation’s life, with a few months to go before the presidential elections, ordinary Filipinos are just extending their patience with the government of Mr. Aquino. They know that he will be gone by the end of June and there is general relief that comes with that anticipated timeline. Most Filipinos, at this stage, do not even mind that he is acting like he were a colossus who fundamentally changed the political and governing culture of the nation. Let him gloat, we all say to ourselves, as his gloating is also term-limited.
Patience, man, patience. Very soon, this undistinguished leader who constantly hectored us about his great leadership but in reality gave nothing back to the people will be out of our lives. But it does not end there. The people have vowed to be extra patient with Mr. Aquino’s government but there is also a pledge of “never again.”
Never again to an Aquino clone.
The rise of Digong Duterte in the polls is easy to explain. It is rooted on the Aquino fatigue. Voters want the anti-thesis (pardon the Marxist framing of the argument ) and it is only Mr. Duterte who is seen by most voters as such at this stage of the election season. Grace Poe, Jojo Binay and Miriam Santiago, for one reason or another, are viewed as part of the establishment politics that gave rise to Mr. Aquino. Mr. Roxas, the Aquino clone, is viewed most negatively, as the torch bearer of a failed government and a failed leader. Mr. Roxas, has earned the most scorn from the general population because of his spear-carrying for the Aquino government.
Mr. Duterte gains his support from the perception (rightly or wrongly) that he is the true anti-Aquino of the entire bunch. His lack of connection whatsoever with the Aquino government has led people to believe that once president, he will undo the legacy of the Aquino presidency and start afresh. That he will be president coming from Davao City enhances, not diminishes, his presidential quest. His distance from the Aquino power loop is a big plus.
Pundits, the Very Knowledgeable People, are still in the state of shock and torment. From their towering intellectual perches, they failed to see why Digong, and his “kill all criminals” meme can capture the imagination of the metropolitan voters. Can’t Metro Manilans feel, touch, and experience the great leadership of Mr. Aquino and the “continuity” that Mr. Roxas promises to do?
That is precisely what is wrong with this sad sack of a country called the Philippines. Those who shape and dominate the national conversation do not even know the conditions under which their maids and drivers struggle daily for survival. And they are clueless on how their drivers and maids feel about the goings-on in the country. And why they favor Mr. Duterte. When the reality sets in and their great analysis is unraveled as an empty gasbag, the post-bubble reaction is a state of shock and disbelief.
All the commentaries from the VKP point out to a Candidate Roxas with a clear path to victory, a little bit tortured but a clear path nonetheless. Then comes the shocker. That in the economic, political and cultural center of the country, Mr. Roxas is the man least likely to be president.
They failed to grasp the fundamental truth: Mr. Duterte’s political nourishment comes from the scars and calluses and heartbreaks most Filipinos accumulated during the Aquino government, no more, no less.
The truth is this: Other than the “ kill all criminals “ meme, Mr. Duterte has offered nothing substantive in terms of policy offerings. Just the promise to undo the “ brutal-to-the-poor” governing philosophy of Mr. Aquino. Just the promise to pay attention to the needs of the have-nots. His call for a shift to a “federal” form of government is bunk. His “Imperial Davao” is “Imperial Manila” lite and factors very little in the debates. And is even a non-issue among Metro Manila voters. Mocking at the “daang matuwid” hypocrisy of Mr. Roxas, Mr. Duterte jestingly favors a policy of constructing more “funeral parlors” to accommodate those who will fall under his anti-criminality campaign.
Why is Metro Manila, the capital whose idea disgusts Mr. Duterte, predisposed toward Mr. Duterte despite the clear hollowness of his campaign agenda? Just the promise to be the opposite of Mr. Aquino. But looking at the world now and how voters react, that is really something.
In the recent Canadian elections, Justin Trudeau just promised to undo the Aquino-like rule of Stephen Harper.
In Argentina, Buenos Aires Mayor Mauricio Macri, the newly-elected president, promised to undo the long quasi-Peronism of the Kirchner rule.
Mr. Duterte’s appeal is simply that. Undo Aquino. Period. Kill the pretentious “daang matuwid.” Period.