If you don’t like someone, the way he holds his spoon will make you furious; if you do like him, he can turn his plate over into your lap and you won’t mind. — Irving Becker
No one seems to be testing this saying more than Davao City mayor and presidential candidate Rodrigo Duterte. It seems that his critics have a field day every time he makes a blunder or the political equivalent of holding his spoon the wrong way.
But Duterte doesn’t look like he’s contented with that. He likes it loud and showy. He doesn’t just turn over the plate on your lap. He flips it over and over and spills drinks over your head to boot. And while his critics are lambasting him for it, his supporters don’t seem to mind and clamp down harder in defending him. Comparisons are now being made to cult leaders who can do no wrong in the eyes of their followers.
Much has been said and written about the recent rape joke (or non-joke depending on how you took it). A friend of mine said she was waiting for my take on it. I don’t really think I have much to add to the cacophony of opinions that it has already raised, other than to say I go with the thinking that it was an insensitive remark. It may have been done in anger at that moment in 1989 but when he repeated it in a rally in what seemed to be a joke, it was uncalled for and deserves a straight up apology like the last one released to the media (which he now reportedly denies making and instead blames it on his camp). Talk about turning the plate over and over.
Despite this and the other blunders he has done though, he still has my vote this coming May 9. My reasons are still the same as I have always maintained:
One is the results that he has achieved in Davao. I will no longer recite the litany of achievements as they have been repeated ad nauseum. No matter how others try to downplay or destroy Davao’s image, I know, as one born and bred in that city, what statistics cannot capture. There is, after all, a difference between quantitative and qualitative data.
Two, he is the only one going for systemic change from a centralized/presidential system to one that is federal/parliamentary. I am not an expert but am persuaded by what I have read so far that that the latter is far better than the former. There would be less votes based on personality and more based on platforms. In short, Duterte is the only candidate benefitting from personality-politics who is eyeing to remove that benefit by actually changing the system. Others who talk about “platform not personality” but do not favor a systemic change are merely paying lip service.
Three, he is still, in my assessment, the least evil among the candidates. When I first saw the rape joke clip, I was very bothered. I thought long and hard and reconsidered my options. My anti-Duterte friends’ arguments played in my head again and again. But I simply cannot bring myself to support any of the other candidates. Perhaps if someone with a similar track record to Duterte, minus his penchant for making disastrous remarks, were running for president, then that person would have my vote.
My more intelligent friends cite Mar Roxas as that candidate and try to justify his achievements and explain how his “blunders” were not really blunders, or his fault entirely. I might have been swayed if I did not happen to be good friends with someone who worked under him before. I know inside stories about Mar that others don’t. These were told over the past 5 years or so, way before the election period, so they are not simply a matter of politicking. They are not my stories to share, however, so I will not make them public. But they are enough to affect my own decision about Mar — that he is not a better choice than Digong.
I don’t really claim to understand or agree with everything Digong does, but some friends who have followed his political career these past two decades say that he is a master strategist. They compare him to a master chess player making moves that make people scratch their heads and it is only in the endgame when you see the effectiveness of his earlier moves.
We are near the endgame. May 9 is fast approaching and his support base seems to be growing stronger and stronger. I am writing this from Los Angeles, California. When I arrived here, I noticed a group of airport personnel speaking to each other in Filipino and I approached them to ask for directions. After the delight and initial small talk in meeting a fellow Filipino, the conversation turned to whom they were supporting for president. They said, “Duterte kami. Lahat kami dito Duterte. (All of us here are for Duterte).”
Whatever he’s doing, it seems to be working. No matter how many times he seems to self-destruct and alienate his supporters, they come back roaring stronger than ever.
I don’t claim to understand it, but it’s happening.
Let’s see what happens on election day.