It’s time Duterte’s supporters grow up and stop referring to him as ‘Tatay’

During the term of former President Benigno Simeon ‘BS’ Aquino III, we criticised his government and his followers as being perpetually in campaign mode all throughout his term of office. His Yellow Camp would incessantly grandstand about his and his clan’s goodness and prayerfulness and every speaking engagement was seized as an opportunity to remind everyone that he is the son of “revered” national “martyrs”. This is what made Aquino and the Yellow Camp so repulsive. At the end of all that, Filipinos felt like they spent six years having their intelligence insulted at every turn.

Fast forward to today. The experience of being subject to Yellowtard propaganda for 30 years is something the supporters of President Rodrigo Duterte should reflect upon. Duterte has already spent one year as president. Perhaps it is time his supporters step up above campaign rhetoric and start behaving like critical supporters. The first step towards achieving that and elevating the quality of discourse is to see Duterte as a professional executive. It could begin by dropping this whole “Tatay Duterte” talk.

Subscribe to our Substack community GRP Insider to receive by email our in-depth free weekly newsletter. Opt into a paid subscription and you'll get premium insider briefs and insights from us.
Subscribe to our Substack newsletter, GRP Insider!
Learn more

Duterte is a leader of a nation that aspires to modernise. But Filipinos cannot modernise their society if they continue to deify their government officials and routinely treat them like celebrities, saints, heroes, patriarchs, and, yes, father figures. The fact is, Duterte has a job to do. Being a “father” to Filipinos is not one of them. If Filipinos want to be treated like respectable adults, they will have to get over their need to call their president Daddy.

Today, unfortunately, it looks as if Filipinos may be suffering from an acute case of daddy issues on a national scale. With the way some Filipinos latch on to their political daddies, I sometimes wonder what those individuals’ real daddies were like when they were growing up. Were they such bad daddies that their grownup kids now seek new daddies? I see the biggest risk to Duterte’s currently-massive support base as being an inability of his followers to grow up and start speaking to the president in the same way a grown up of sound mind speaks to her parents — in the respectful but dignified manner with which adults regard one another. As a parent, I wouldn’t want to see my grown up kids speaking to me like the needy toddlers I broke my back to raise.

What Duterte needs today are not blind followers and cheerleaders. He needs partners in his journey to reform the Philippines, not a bunch of screeching kids in his back seat who need hugs every now and then to calm down.

The biggest criticism Duterte cops from his detractors today revolve around his unstoppable mouth, his inept lieutenants and handlers, and his tunnel-visioned view of what is good for the Philippines. So the biggest challenge to his supporters does not involve simply ratcheting up the slapstick rhetoric they dish out to the public today. Rather, they need to send out more intelligent messages — messages that stand a bigger chance of winning new supporters and less of the sort that simply kick existing supporters into a Taliban-like frenzy. You cannot do this by calling the president “Tatay Digong”.

Duterte’s supporters need to provide the president with the right perspective so that he conducts himself and manages his staff in a manner that secures the astounding political capital he enjoys today. The fact that his approaches are unconventional and, in some cases, counterintuitive all the more makes the sustaining of this political capital very important. In a democracy, you cannot implement painful and confronting change without that massive support base. Duterte’s supporters therefore need to evolve from being mere cheerleaders.

A cheerleader’s job is to shout out loud but nonsensical jibberish and dance around in short skirts to egg on their team. That style of “support” is not what will sustain Duterte’s political capital. This political capital needs to be protected by mounting focused effort along two fronts: (1) preventing existing supporters from disengaging or defecting and (2) by pulling in new supporters from the Opposition camps. The way some of Duterte’s most influential supporters are conducting themselves today does not contribute to achieving both ends. If we put ourselves in the shoes of, say, a Yellowtard and try to regard Duterte’s top-dog supporters from a Yellow lens, we begin to understand why, rather than see things a different way or at least open their minds to alternative points of view, Yellowtards tend to dig deeper into their trenches. It’s because, deep inside, Yellowtards see that Duterte supporters are no different to what they are.

There is also a third front: (3) protecting Duterte from himself. This last one is possibly the most formidable challenge — more so because none of his supporters seem to be up to the task of facing that challenge. Politics, specially in a “democracy”, is all about perception. Good intent is nice, but it will be crushed under the weight of bad public relations. Duterte must not underestimate the threats to his political capital presented by the crooked manner with which both local and foreign media portray him and his government, the way certain “human rights activists” invite foreign meddling into the Philippines’ domestic affairs, and the way incompetent secretaries, spokespersons, and staff erode the public’s confidence in his ability to lead and execute. But for him to recognise those threats, his followers need to remind him to, at least, get to know the enemy better. That way, he will be in a better position to address these political threats.

As we can see, it takes a lot of smarts to be a productive supporter of the president who contributes to protecting and building his political capital and strengthening his ability to fulfil his promises. Cheerleaders may be loud, perky, and pretty. But at the end of the day, many of them are dumb and one-dimensional. The challenge Duterte’s most influential supporters face is to evolve into evangelists and drop the pompom act.

10 Replies to “It’s time Duterte’s supporters grow up and stop referring to him as ‘Tatay’”

  1. what’s the fuss in calling pres duterte tatay digong??? as one netizen says, just because he is called tatay does not mean he is blindly followed. shape up.

  2. I will support Du not because of what his fans do or dont but what he does or doesnt do. So far, I do not support him bec he failed to amaze me in every aspect. Maybe he has hidden agenda but so far I didnt and do not see any change for the better except a few thousand dead bodies.
    The Philippines is the only country on this planet earth that has no (decent) divorce law. He could have started there instead of killing a couple of junkies.

  3. >> Were they such bad daddies that their grownup kids now seek new daddies?

    This is entirely possible. I encounter useless, irresponsible, and abusive parents on a regular basis. That, plus the fact that so many Filipinos behave like spoiled children in need of a good spanking, is enough to explain the ‘tatay’ moniker.

  4. I don’t call him “Tatay” or “Tatang” or even “Señor” to Pres. Rodrigo Duterte. I’m very comfortable to call him “Digong” or “Rody” instead, and even some of you as well. It’s very humble name & he doesn’t need a “hierarchy” or honorifics. Well, he really doesn’t need an honorifics on his name because he always saying an F word on his mouth.

  5. I think, this : “Father figure”, “Mother Figure”, ” Aunt Figure”, concept in our Filipino politics, began with the YellowTards. They called that incompetent President, Cory Cojuangco Aquino: “Tita Cory”…It gives them a political and familial bond, between her and her supporters. The main purpose, is to get votes…

    The Cory Aquino supporters, did not grow up, until today…they become spoiled and stunted , YellowTards.

    Digong Duterte supporters called him, “Tatay Digong”, to have them have a “political familial bond”, with their leader. They like the YellowTards will, also become spoiled and stunteds, “DuterTards”…

    We all must grow up. Face our problems, and take responsibilities; as Adults, in our lives … If we want to remain children, and be treated, as children; and not grow up, for the rest of our lives. It is our choice…

    Fellow Filipinos, Act as Adults, be a contributor for change…be mature…and be a part of nation building !

  6. The other problem could be the rising nationalism founded on fanaticism. Filipinos should realize and steer away from that if we want real positive change for the long-term.

  7. Alternatives – domestically ‘unnecessary’, internationally ’embarrassing’….or vice versa, actually – that goes for most of us. But never ‘father’, that’s wrong & sadly childish…

  8. Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini, Saddam Hussein, Joseph Stalin, Kim Jung Un, etc…used the : “Cult of Personality” for political gain; and to make themselves , respected…

    The Aquinos; like Cory Cojuangco Aquino, used, “piety”, to show her “holiness”, to people, and made her respected. The Aquino Cojuangco political axis, took advantage of, the murder of : Ninoy Aquino, Jr., to make him a martyr, and make the Aquino sons and daughters; and the Aquino name, respected.

    If you look at the lives of the Aquinos…they had betrayed their country , and were traitors. Cory Cojuangco Aquino’s family scammed the Philippine government and some landowners in Tarlac, to own a large tract of land, known as , Hacienda Luisita. Many lives were lost, for the struggle for the true ownership of this large tract of land.

    Ninoy Aquino, Jr. , was responsible for the spread of the New People’s Army; armed struggle and ideology. He was responsible for the MV Karagatan arms shipment, in Palanan, Isabela. Ninoy Aquino , Jr. was murdered, under a questionable circumstances. He was the ultimate political opportunist. The bombing of the Plaza Miranda Liberal Party “miting de avance” , was his work, together with his NPA buddies…

    Now, they are in our history books, as “saint and martyr…a sizeable group of YellowTards, worship them, as saint and martyr.

    We should let our leaders, do their jobs, in the office, they are elected…we are the one paying them, by our Taxes, and OFW remittances fees…they are our employees, not our masters…

    They are just people, like you and me…they are not special…or better than most of us. They have their weaknesses, like us. And, we are all eating , the same rice, and drinking the same water , to survive, in this life…

    So, there is no use putting these people on pedestal and worshiping them …respect is earned, not given on, what hierarchy you are in political office…

  9. Exactly, they are public servants elected to represent the greater population and ensure the will of that population is met – or at least try to do so. They’re not our leaders, they lead our democratically elected government on our behalf. They don’t get to choose to pursue policies and actions that suit them – that’s the trait of a dictatorship or absolute monarchy! As said previously, we pay them to do our bidding – we shouldn’t fawn over them, we should judge them based on their performance! If they fail, as is mostly the case, they need removing and replacing quickly before their actions do too much damage. There needs to be a consequence for failure, not more money, more status, plus high-paid jobs for the kids and grandkids!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.