The paradox of presidential popularity
Many are surprised by the latest Pulse Asia survey showing a very high approval and trust rating of President Duterte despite his abrasive, confrontational, and antagonistic diatribes against the Church, human rights advocates, and America. Filipinos all over the country have expressed approval of what he has done, is currently doing, and what he intends to do. This is a paradox. His critics are exasperated and at a loss why this “foul-mouthed” president continues to be loved by the people.
I am not surprised at all. I know the score, I understand the president, and I am one of the millions of Filipinos who continue to believe that under the veneer of his many antics and vulgar language, is a really honest man who truly loves his country and cares for the people. Behind his abrasiveness is a truly amiable guy with simple outlooks and unadulterated dreams for the nation. He is also an angry man who hates drugs, is angry at corruption, and sneers at the pretensions and hypocrisy of some Church leaders. He is also intolerant of lazy, dishonest, and inept public officials.
Duterte ended 2018 with a rating of 81%, a leap from his September score of 75%. Mindanao respondents gave him a rating of 91%. Across the country, all Class E (poorest of the poor) people rated him 82%. The ratings were the result of interviews of 1,800 Filipinos from all walks of life. His ratings are way ahead of Vice President Robredo who only got 62%, Senate President Sotto with 74%, and House Speaker GMA with a measly 27%. No other president remained popular after three years into his/her term.
This appears to be a paradox because he never stopped lambasting the Church which claims no less than 87 million among the 107 million Filipinos. It is also an enigma because Digong has always criticized the US, UN, and human rights groups that attack his war against drugs. It has always been assumed that the Church is invincible and that the US is the most powerful nation on earth, and that the Philippines is always dependent on Americans for its national defense. This popularity could not be understood by progressive elements of civil society, and the partylist NGOs who hate his propensity to utter such statements as “I will kill you” or “you will die.”
But those who really know him understand that all such figures of speech, sarcasm, hyperbole, or simile are just defense mechanisms of a head of state whose heart truly bleeds for the poor, the oppressed, and the marginalized. His anger is just a reflection of the peoples' hatred of all forms of evils in the struggles of the nation. The few critics are the usual elite, corrupt, and hypocritical ivory tower bloggers and filthy rich suckers of the nation's wealth who fear their days are numbered.