Despite my misgivings about Davao City Mayor Rody Duterte as a presidential canidate, I think his communication campaign was among the strongest I have seen in a long time and spot on, reverberating among the masses in a way that somehow reminded me of Panfilo Lacson’s campaign way back.
Unlike Lacson who was projected as a brainiac law enforcer, Duterte came across as a clever (ma-diskarte) everyman giving Roxas, the rich spoiled brat, a beating of his life in the battlefield of communications.
Perhaps, the first thing that Roxas can learn from Duterte is authenticity. There are a lot of ways to describe what authenticity and for me, it is pretty hard to define it within the context of politics. You see, I think much of politics is about deception — making things appear to be something that it isn’t, making something trivial look important, making something crucial look innocuous, hiding weakness and flaws to appear strong, pretending to be weak and vulnerable to gain sympathy, sidestepping issues, keeping silent when speaking up is called for, etcetera… etcetera… etcetera…
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Duterte comes across as authentic in the sense that he owns up completely to what he is and gives of the vibe that says, “This is what I am, take it or leave it.” Here are some of Rody’s major facets:
- A Visayan (a waray, in fact) who grew up in Mindanao,
- A womanizer whose marriage was annulled but remains respected by the woman he was married to for over 25 years,
- A real tough guy capable of meeting people on the street on their terms and able to speak to them in a language they can understand. This can only come from being in constant contact with people on the ground and being so completely immersed in their culture that it has become part of his character.
- Someone who acts with deep, unshakeable conviction.
Mar Roxas on the other hand comes across as someone who doesn’t seem comfortable in his own skin and gives of the vibe that he’s just an actor playing a role which he has no real concept of, therefore has nothing to internalize. Here is how Mar stacks up:
- Also a Visayan by ancestry but didn’t live most of his life in his home province, so he doesn’t have any real connections there except — perhaps — with household staff who live there. A former boss of mine at the DTI when Mar was Trade Secretary under Gloria Arroyo once told me that Mar didn’t even have close ties with former schoolmates at Ateneo. In Jane Subang’s words, “Wala siyang barkada.”
- Also married then divorced (I think) and he revealed that he had a kid only in preparation for his electoral campaign as senator. It was more to keep it from being used as a character issue than actually owning up to somewhat of an interesting past. He was said to be quite fond of hanging around starlets when he was a congressman, but some say it was more for the “star/celebrity” factor than actual tail chasing and they’re pretty much the PR/rent-a-date kind of arrangement I’ve been told.
- Doesn’t really have the common touch but likes to appear as if he does. The thing is, having lived longer in Manila and the US, he really doesn’t really have a handle of Pinoy street culture and so much so that his simulation of it comes across as embarrassingly awkward. Even his cussing doesn’t have that guttural edge, sure it can be loud but lacks bite.
Another lesson that Roxas can learn from Duterte is being mission oriented.
The long and short of Mar’s entrance into politics is that he ran as congressman after his brother (who was the incumbent congressman in their home province) died of “liver failure” — I put that in quotes because I heard another story over steak and whisky. Before running for and winning as congressman, he was a high-powered investment banker in New York (on Wall Street, I am told) and was quite a party boy too according to legend. Gee, can you imagine having to make that jarring transition from first world to, no only the third world, but the boonies of the third world? If that were me, I’d probably hate it and make people know I hated it. Which is probably why, I am told, that Mar was a chain-smoker when he was a congressman. Then as cabinet secretary under Arroyo, he’d work outside of his office at the Manila Golf Club or lock himself up in his part of the Cubao property for days or weeks.
It is difficult to come up with one word or phrase that would concisely describe Mar’s political career as a legislator and a cabinet secretary.
Other than keeping alive his family’s political clout, it’s mostly a string of posts that he was elected for and appointed to. On one hand, this can be spun as proof of his versatility and multi-talented-ness as a politician as well as technocrat. On the other hand, he comes off like rice — basically bland stuff that goes with almost anything that you can think of.
With Duterte, it’s a whole different ballgame. I think, from the start, he wanted to be the ruler of his own fiefdom just like his parents and with the intent of surpassing whatever his parents accomplished. In two words, you can probably describe Duterte’s career as one characterized by a drive to instill peace and order in a part of the Philippines known for armed conflict. His wikipedia entry is nothing short of impressive, to say the least and most of it describes a life committed to providing strong leadership as well as governance — something that was recognized by four presidents including Noynoy Aquino.
The thing with Duterte lately is that apart from having been known for clamping down hard on vice and literally getting rid of criminals, he also became one of the stronger voices pushing for federalism and his call for this change resonated with a lot of local government leaders as far as I can tell. The beauty of his advocacy is that, for once, it cut through the age-old resistance to constitutional change — something that would be necessary for federalism to take place.
(End Of Part One)