Mambo Duterte or Huling El Bimbo?  

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It does not help that you think I’m a blind follower, an apologist, a rude and crude supporter of a bloodthirsty maniac. You think I am a troll. Worse, you suspect I am a paid troll, or even, a bot. For how can anyone in their right mind support such a foul-mouthed monster? 

On the other hand, WE think you’re hopelessly naive, a bleeding heart easily manipulated by click-bait articles, an unconscious elitist who, similar to the past administration, is out of touch with the pulse of the rest of the country, outside of the narrow Manila mindset that you inhabit. You are a conspirator to the perpetuation of oligarchy in the country.

The ammunition we use is easily inventoried by now. Yours are: Dutertard, Dutertite, Duterter, Hitler, Psychopath, bastos, troll etc. Ours are: Yellowtard (we know you were not necessarily a Pnoy supporter, but we know it’s damn annoying to be called one anyway), dilaw, ivory-tower, biased, bobo, etc.  So everyday we open Facebook, we mark our territory, so to speak, and then just resort to these labels, labeling comments and each other.

It is pathetic and toxic. But also strangely exhilarating and hypnotic. For why else do we keep on coming back? There is adrenaline in the discussion. We need to vent and be heard. “What the hell is this guy saying? I have to get in there and teach him a thing or two.”

Such is the state of our online existence now. 

There have been many explanations offered of how we ended up this way.  One that I found particularly insightful was that we never stopped campaigning. Even after the elections were over, everyone stayed in campaign mode.  Criticism of this administration started pretty much on Day 1. Forget the 100 day press honeymoon. One of the biggest, if not the biggest issue out there, is this huge question mark–how much of this criticism is coming from genuinely concerned Filipinos, speaking about issues important to them, and how much of it is politically-motivated? Nobody except those in the highest rungs of money and power can say for sure.

The other insightful explanation, most popularly attributed to F. Sionil Jose, is that we should recognize what the Duterte win in the election means. It is no less than a revolution, a movement for reform and drastic change in the country.  In a way, Duterte is our Widodo. All over the world, voters are rejecting traditional politics and politicians. No matter the quibbles about Duterte also coming from a political family, the fact remains that he is the first President from Mindanao, and is not part of the traditional Manila power elite. It was his strong record as a sympathetic and effective local executive that brought him to the national limelight, more than his family name.

This revolution politicized huge swathes of the population, even segments that have previously been apathetic or excluded from the national discussion. People who used to say “Pare-pareho lang naman sila” (They are all the same), and “Kahit sino ang iboto ko wala namang magbabago sa Pilipinas” (Whoever I vote for, nothing will change in the Philippines anyway) suddenly could not be held back from the polling centers. I spoke to a Filipina OFW in Hong Kong who worked in the hotel convenience store. She has been abroad for 28 years, starting out as a maid, eventually breaking into the hotel industry.  She says 2016 was the first time she voted since she was in her early 20s. She voted for Duterte. 

This story can be multiplied millions of times. The simple fact is many Filipinos came to realize that the status quo does not work; that the system was failing them. We hit the proverbial iceberg with the OFW diaspora, the growth “strategy” that was no strategy at all, rather, the result of the failure of other strategies to grow jobs at home. The unintended consequence of this labor export was that millions of Filipinos saw first hand that life did not have to be so hard. It is possible to have a functional government and all that it entailed — clean, well-lit streets, low crime, adequate public services, public transportation, etc.

Budget airfares and the internet gave even more Filipinos a glimpse of “the good life”. They saw gleaming Asian cities where millions have been brought up from poverty in the span of a generation. The great thorn on the side is Singapore, a country that would have been euphemistically referred to as “shabby” compared to Manila in the 1970s. But there are many thorns in this crown of shame. We now see how Kuala Lumpur surpassed us, and then Bangkok and then Jakarta. Now it looks like even Ho Chi Minh is about to edge us out. The saddest thing to hear is Filipinos saying, “Naiwanan na talaga tayo.” (We have been truly left behind).

Apart from this mirror being help up to our faces, we saw how the world saw us: a country of maids, of natural disasters, a people that could never get their house in order, an object of pity. Sure, we have Manny Pacquiao and the occasional opiates to our mortally wounded national pride. It still doesn’t help if you’re cleaning your master’s toilet.

Now imagine all these newly aware, newly politicized, fed up Filipinos. On Facebook.

I have never threatened anybody on social media, or told anyone they should try being raped or killed by a drug addict. No matter how strongly I disagree with someone, no matter how insulting, how arrogant, or how much they try to pick a fight. Then again, I do have a wide enough vocabulary and can argue back. You pick a fight with me and I can fight back and vent in many a way. 

But what about the millions of Filipinos on Facebook who have a problem forming a sentence in either English or Filipino? Or those who are so insecure about their language skills that they start a fake account and use memes? Is social media solely for the Ateneo, UP, La Salle, UST, San Beda, etc. crowd? Is everyone else “a troll”?

Do trolls’ opinions matter less because they cannot articulate it well, or within socially-accepted norms?  (Whose norms?) How frustrating that must be. 

I am not excusing their behavior, but we can’t forget the underpinning dynamic of the freshly baptized, newly-politicized people. As said before, the Duterte phenomenon has done that. Anger against the past administration and the collective failure of the post-EDSA era has done that. I just find it very strange that the same people who can sympathize with drug pushers and addicts pushed to drugs and violence due to poverty, cannot seem to sympathize with the broader demographic on social media, or with the inarticulate, overzealous troll.

To fail to understand that what happened was a revolution, the birth of a reform movement (and an overdue one), is one of the reasons you are puzzled by the vehemence and passion of Duterte supporters. Facebook has only amplified that existing rancor.

You know the other thing that bugs me, no end? That some of you have characterized our political divide into a battle of good vs evil. I mean, c’mon. Whether intentionally or simple-mindedly, the anti Dutertes have resorted to demonizing him and all of us, the pro administration people as “evil people” with no concept of human rights or due process. The trick here is to try and gain a moral ascendancy in the argument, which gives them carte blanche license to hurl all the abuse they can muster. It even gives them, in their minds, the rationale, to disregard what other (evil! misguided!) Filipinos think and believe in, and move to oust a duly elected government.

Nobody seems to recognize that the root of the divide is more due to different political priorities.  Why are we always talking at cross purposes? Because at the top of your list are EJKs and the burial of Marcos at Libingan. At the top of my list is a move toward efficient and effective government, one that is sincere in its service to the people. I am for tax reform, higher fiscal spending and opening up to Foreign Direct Investment (FDI).  I believe what Lee Kuan Yew said about the Philippines is true: that the US style setup of the government has failed us even before Marcos tried to change it, and I believe we should move to a parliamentary and federalist system. We need to break up our huge archipelagic country into more manageable and governable federal states. I am concerned that the corruption we have always seen in Philippine politics may have links to drugs i.e. narcopolitics. I am for peace in Mindanao and a tough stance on terrorists and outlaws. I feel all these things are closer to happening with this administration. Duterte gets all of this and is the best chance we have had since…forever.

Then there are the other issues where we just outright clash.  I am for a realist, multi polar approach to foreign relations. You want to confront China and take a harder stance; I believe the best solution to the China problem is diplomacy and compromise. You believe in media freedom; I believe in media responsibility. Your model for the country to go forward is the US system with all its bells and whistles, and you believe the status quo is working. My model is Singapore and I believe we need to make drastic systemic changes or continue to be overtaken by our Asian neighbors.

You insist on decency and statesmanlike behavior; I’m willing to give the man a break. Yes he is a crude, loud mouth with no filters. His comments make me cringe sometimes. He is imperfect and a product of his milieu, as a recent write-up of Manolo Quezon III (belatedly) made clear. I have gotten used to it and am not shocked by D30’s politically incorrect speech anymore. And the fact that many still are makes me just want to sigh and ask, so what now? You can’t change him. He won’t listen to your eloquent pleadings for more statesman-like statements. If anything, the more you call him Hitler, the more he will retort and say something you don’t like. Remember he had to be begged to take this job, and at his age he does not give a fuck.

Discourse breaks down when nobody recognizes the ironies anymore. When the likes of Princeton-educated Walden Bello, an ex-Senator, starts calling Duterte supporters short-penised dinosaurs on Facebook. When academics and intellectuals totally miss the point and say we are all just looking for a father figure or a messiah.

When a media outfit like Rappler starts a “stop the hate” campaign and then effectively blocks and censors its own readers who are disagreeing with their articles and demanding better media. Like a “pikon” child, Rappler then goes on to insinuate that Duterte supporters are really “bots” and fake accounts i.e. falling back on the paid troll accusation. (I have now resorted to posting pictures of my lunch just to show I am a real person).

Discourse suffers when the same people who turn the Delima investigation into a gender issue, then turn around and abuse strong, influential pro-administration women who are speaking their minds, like Mocha Uson and Sass Sasot, with below the belt, slut-shaming and anti-LGBT attacks.

Discourse is better served when we stick to the issues and seek balance. It is served better when we stop being so onion-skinned and whiny. It’s not like one side threw a rose and the other a rock. Social media is a strange animal with assholes on both ends. Balance is best achieved by not blocking everybody who disagrees with you, and by not living in an echo chamber.  Perhaps there is a self-correcting element to our fights. Perhaps like newly weds, we are slowly whittling down each others rough sides and rough arguments. Give an allowance for vehemence because people are defending their political priorities and interest.

Discourse breaks down when you persist in talking about only what is important to you. Worse you use it as an overriding reason for criticism and even ouster. Because, let’s face it, what is really the end goal here? Will you be happy with apologies and promises to change? Even if a survey shows popular backing for the war on drugs, would you still insist you know better? Would you insist on “speaking for the poor”, when they themselves have already spoken? If we had a referendum on the Marcos burial and it shows the majority support it, or else don’t care, would you still insist and say, no the vote was rigged? How does that reconcile with your belief in democracy and majority rule?

Will you ever be satisfied short of “regime change”? People are already suggesting it in broad daylight. Clinton Palanca, in a recent piece in Esquire, wonders how long before the anti’s can unseat Duterte.

There lies the problem. I have the sneaking suspicion that your side has already given up on discourse. So what happens to my desire for a sincere and effective leader? For peace in Mindanao and terrorists eradicated? For a multi polar approach to foreign relations? For structural change in our form of government and to amend the constitution?  What happens to my wanting the Filipino to have some pride and say yes, the son of a bitch who stood up to the US? My president. For my desire to see poverty reduced in the quickest possible way? For my desire to break from the old order that obviously does not work? 

Only in the Philippines. Our so-called democracy is so “vibrant” that we always get mired down. We forget that political will is anchored to political stability, and that stability rests on the robustness of our institutions, and on us. And what have we done for our political stability lately? Precious little. As a people we like to think with our hearts and we will always be prey to click bait headlines and spin–because as rich in natural resources as the Philippines is, we lack in one very important resource–critical thinking.  Even some of our elite do not question the status quo. They share their Western liberal biases with the international media, who rely on the local press and the local elite as their eyes and ears on the ground. 

I have always marveled at this country’s tradition of shooting itself in the foot, of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. We are seeing it again. If democracy and rule of law gets supplanted again by the whims and vested interests of the Manila powers-that-be, then all hope is lost.

So what we have now is like two kids in a school yard fight. Shoving and testing each other. Gathering courage before somebody makes a move and throws the first punch.  Somebody should just start it soon. And then we can go back to the Stone Age.

Let me put it bluntly in terms you would (hopefully) understand. And pardon the hyperbole, which I assure you is not that far off. If you haven’t realized it yet, this is the most popular Philippine President in a long long time. This guy is Mambo Duterte. The more political dirt you throw at him, the stronger he becomes. If anything happens to him, there will be class war, if not outright civil war. Visayas and Mindanao will secede. Your driver will go after you with a screwdriver. Your cook will poison your food. You think Duterte is a monster? He’s a pussycat compared to what comes after him if he is ousted or assassinated.

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About Charles Englund

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31 Comments on “Mambo Duterte or Huling El Bimbo?  ”

  1. Liberty is like those solid and tasty foods or those full-bodied wines which are appropriate for nourishing and strengthening robust constitutions that are used to them, but which overpower, ruin and intoxicate the weak and delicate who are not suited for them.

  2. If Mr. Englund is a Filipino, this is the most intelligent piece of writing I have ever seen come from a Filipino. Somehow I suspect there is a western mind in the recent gene pool of this author.

    In substance I mostly agree with everything and as a foreigner who cannot participate in politics here, I am a bit dismayed at SOME of the rhetoric coming from Du30, but I’m just holding my breath and treading water waiting for whatever happens. Hopefully the system of government can be changed peacefully and services (governmental) improve along with infrastructure.

    I believe I have a relatively simple method of at least starting to mitigate some of the traffic gridlock, but no doubt the nouveau riche would object. I propose that there be massive parking lots that function as ride share meeting places. Everyone would drive to a certain place and then share a single van or car all going to a designated area. The ride share vehicles would have distinct license plates and only those vehicles, along with buses, taxis and other public transport would be allowed to travel the streets during normal business hours.

    Of course exceptions would have to be made for shoppers and medical emergencies, but people coming and going for their jobs should not be permitted to drive a car that is not almost completely full within the metro Manila area during certain hours. Singapore does this by making it prohibitively expensive to own a car, and thus, they are not polluted with excess traffic like Manila is.

    1. Yes, I am Filipino. I agree with your carpooling solution. The problem, as always, is a society that refuses to sacrifice (or be even slightly inconvenienced) for the greater good. It is this mentality that saps the political will of administrations.

      1. Carpooling does not work in the Philippines. It may work in California, or other U.S. states; but not here…

        Who would like to be taken a ride , by other people ? You don’t know what is on their minds !

  3. Duterte ousted? That is a remote possibility.
    Duterte assassinated? I think his enemies had already planned that scheme since day one.

    God forbid that they will succeed because the name RODRIGO ROA DUTERTE had his anagram as “A DRUG TERROR DIE TOO.”

      1. The U.S./C.I.A. is looking for agents that they can use for another EDSA, for the political control of the country…their business interests are at stake !

        The “Human Rights” issue is their reason. Aquino , Mar Roxas, Leni Robredo, Porky Drilon, the YellowTards, the Feudal Oligarchs, and their cahoots…are willing tools for the U.S./C.I.A., for another EDSA! Be vigilant…these traitors are in our midst !

  4. Oh…oh …the web article is as long as a PhD thesis…

    I don’t mind being labeled with many unkind names…I can live with those vicious YellowTards. I can get along with all kinds of wicked Trolls in the Cyberspace…the YellowTards cannot block me; because I outsmarted them. So, they send viruses, malwares, etc… to my computer.

    Filipinos are tired of the same old TraPo politicians; who promise change and better life. After they are elected; they steal everything, that is not welded.

    Pres. Duterte was elected; and with our own eyes: we saw real and living changes, for the first time in our lives. Was this for real ? We pinch ourselves, if we are seeing things, or dreaming…It is for real, indeed. We are happy because : a politician, finally delivered what he promised…

    Whatever concept you have on Duterte. History will judge him. Future Filipino generations will judge him…without his Propaganda Machine Media, if he has any…

    Aquino administrations is already judged , as a failure, and was corrupt to the core administration. If you are a YellowTard: Aquino is the greatest. If you are on the other side: Aquino is the vilest and most corrupt !

    The Americans are on the sideline, watching for the day they can meddle effectively again , in our internal affairs; and make us again as their , vassal state !

    Good blogging to everybody. Whether you are a : serious blogger; a troll; a bot; an internet nuisance; or whatever ! You make life in the Cybespace, colorful. The more, the merrier !

  5. So true, Mr. Englund! Me, i can’t even remember the last time i voted. I think it was in 1986 snap elections or something but definitely not for cory since i felt that she lacked experience. Fast forward to 2016. When Duterte said he was running, i made sure that i registered as early as possible. No regrets since.

    Just asking, this Mr. Lynch, he insulted the Filipinos, the Philis. to the core in another article I read. So why this tame comment now? Just wondering.

  6. A nice revelation. We all clash with priorities and forget the most important things we want to have. A government who listens, sincere and raise the dignity of the Filipino people to rise again.

  7. But what about the millions of Filipinos on Facebook who have a problem forming a sentence in either English or Filipino? Or those who are so insecure about their language skills that they start a fake account and use memes? Is social media solely for the Ateneo, UP, La Salle, UST, San Beda, etc. crowd? Is everyone else “a troll”?

    Tell that to “articulate” morons like Lourd De Veyra and Jessica Zafra.

  8. It is good to know that a Duterte supporter does not resort to name calling, threats and profanities in support of his arguments. While I agree in most of the writer’s point of view, I would like to show more than meets his eye. At the start of Duterte’s presidency, I chose to accept the mandate of the Filipino electorate. I kept my peace whenever good friends brag about Duterte and his achievements on his anti-drug war. But when the body count started to become unusually high, I have decided to let go of my silence. The short-term benefits of this anti-drug campaign is obvious. The long-term effect, however, will haunt us for decades. We are now a people that are desensitized by the killings around us. We seem to have tolerated this abhorrent act. We see killings right and left, and it seems that we no longer care. Killing has become the new norm of our society. Also, the character he is showing us gives our children reasons to question our teachings, and those of our school and church’s. This distorts our values, and ultimately our society’s norms. Also, Duterte has been good in his populist rhetorics. He claims to be advocating true independence against colonial power by disengaging from the US, the EU and the UN, and leaning towards China and Russia. As a result of this action, our currency had become the worst in Asia, and our stocks has become the third worst-performing in the Asia Pacific region in the past thirty days. It had shed almost 6% since July 2016. He has also put to risk the booming BPO industry, almost 80% of whose clients are American companies. While he remains popular this time, the evil effects of his actions will surely erode his support later next year when our countrymen start to feel the setbacks of his current actions.

    1. Those figures you mentioned are debatable at best. As for your predictions, well, let’s just say we’re just as curious as you are on how this current administration can outdo its predecessor in terms of fucking this already fucked up country further. But don’t hold your breath. I have a feeling PNoy is unbeatable in that category. At least he gets top points in that category for such a despondent, empathy-devoid, underachieving scumbag for once in his miserable life.

      1. I hesitate to reply to your comment given that it is emotionally laden without any factual support. I am constrained to reply in order to correct you general statements, and correct it through facts and official data lest other readers would assume it to be true. You wrote that PNoy fucked up this country. If he indeed fuck up our country, how can you explain the fact that hehad caused our GDP to grow an average of 6.2% – the fastest in 40 years. He brought us back to investment grade credit rating. He reduced our inflation rate from 3.8 in 2010 to 1.4 in 2015. Hecaused our corruption index to fall from 134 in 2010 to 95 in 2015. He caused our debt to GDP ratio to fall from 55.4 in 2010 to 45.05 in 2015. He reduced our unemployment rate from 7.3 in 2010 to 6.1 in 2015. He purchased more equipment, vessels and aircrafts for our military than the four previous administrations combined. He reduced our out of school children from 11.7% to 5.2.%. He constructed, upgraded and improved more than 18,547 kilometers of our national road network. We should argue based on fact and official, and not on emotional but baseless rhetorics.

    2. You should not confuse what markets do on the short term as any indictment of the current administration. Markets react to temporary political noise. Ultimately, the Philippines has good fundamentals and growth prospects. The economic team is experienced and competent.
      As for the drug war, many countries have adopted a war on drugs footing–Thailand, Mexico, Colombia, the US etc. Let us not over dramatize.

  9. I agree that market reacts to temporary political noise. But how can we judge his performance if we will not base our opinion on official data currently released. Are we going to wait for the economy to suffer further before speaking up against his actions? I would understand if our currency is going down just like other countries, but when it is labeled as the worst performing currency in Asia and third worst performing stocks in Asia Pacific, there is something wrong with this government. While I agree that other countries have adopted measures to combat drugs, what were the means they take? In the case of Thailand, Mexico and Colombia they adopted drastic measures through summary killings. Were these measures effective? Even Thailand acknowledged that it was not. Colombia and Mexico is still suffering the same fate. Recent scientific study has shown the drug problem should be treated primarily as a medical illness, and not just a police matter. It can be minimized through medical attention, and not just through summary killings. Worse, lives of innocent people are cut short by way of collateral damage. Are we going to accept this reality as it is? I you can accept that reality, then you are a living proof of my opinion that we have become a society that has been desensitized by this regular killings.

    1. If we treat it as a medical problem, should we instead send medical teams to confront the drug addicts who could also be pushers?

    2. If you had a Bloomberg machine you could rank the performances of asian currencies and stock markets. Being the “worst” performing currency is not as bad as it sounds to the layman’s ear. Ask yourself by what magnitude is the peso “the worst”. That magnitude is insignificant. Read my FB status commment on this. What maters is whem you go down and others go up. That would indicate an idiosyncratic issue. Relative down movements are just noise. If you want to gauge the economy look at consumer confidence, look at business sentiment, look at fiscal stimulus on the way, look at government efforts to boost infrastructure and ease of doing business.

  10. There is desensitized and there is overdramatized. Since you claim you do not use emotional arguments then I urge you to take a closer look at your dramatic assertions. The killings have always been there, and the fact that we are seeing more now is due to a serious crackdown by the State. As I have said, this is no different from similar crackdowns done in other countries. If you want to prove that the State is responsible for ALL the killings then, by your standard, let us see some proof.

    Your surprise that there would be cogent Duterte supported may indicate that your FB wall is an echo chamber. I encourage you to find intelligent life outside your circle. It does exist.

  11. charles, how can you say duterte stands for “rule of law” when his solution is to kill the supposed 3 million drug addicts? Isn’t it clear that hes just another populist, and that he played people’s belief that their lives will just instantly improve once he’s elected. Democracy is tedious building coalitions, budget hearings, incremental improvements etc. theres just no magic shortcut

    1. first, as has been said many times, this President needs interpretation. You have to see past the rhetoric. Second, the people support him because of his sincerity and empathy, also the political will to get things done. It’s not because they think their lives will suddenly improve (although putting a lid on crime redounds to instant qualify of life improvment. Third, ask yourself whether the concensus building / patronage politics / coalitions (what I refer to as a US style democracy) has worked for us? Is that the fastest way to bring our people out of poverty? What had been our track record with this system?

      1. what do you mean “interpretation” that sounds so flexible that it could mean anything and nothing.

        A movement of the “people” against the “elite” sounds too much like venezuela we know what happened there. What I see is the fantasy of instant solutions to complex problems. like instant noodles. how will more vigilantism and gang wars improve our lives?

        there is no fast way but there is the slow way of building a coalition, improving the political process, compromise, enacting reform etc its not one man with the magic touch

        1. It seems you’re expecting a violence free solution to the drug problem involving syndicates and mafia like organisations. Yup. That doesn’t sound like a fantasy.

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