The Opposition wasted time looking for a “silver bullet” vs Duterte instead of crafting an intelligent campaign

We are under a fascist, authoritarian dictatorship. This is the impression you get after reading Boo Chanco’s PhilSTAR column “Hearts and minds” today. This is the second in a row about what the opposition must do in order to win in 2022. Chanco quotes from an article published by a millennial PhD candidate Cleve Arguelles:

As the pandemic worsens and democracy erodes, Duterte remains popular. His blessing will still give any aspiring president a clear advantage. Duterte’s populist politics (Dutertismo) mobilizes public support through a mix of coercion and charisma.

Over the past five years, his government has undermined democracy, human rights and civil liberties while consolidating local and national political control. With the election just a year away, Dutertismo appears to be ready for a second term.

Arguelles is part of the group of millennials composed mostly of JC Punongbayan and other like-minded academics who are in the early to mid-thirties — all liberals or neoliberals against the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte. They would like nothing more than see the government provide dole-outs not only to the poor but to everyone affected by the pandemic; a tall order given the precarious economic situation the country finds itself in. To them, the government has not done thing right in the last five years. Chanco, as a veteran PR operator and newsman seems to omit one very important fact. If what he claims is true, why is it that Duterte remains popular. His explanation is Duterte has tapped into the basic fear of Pinoys which is law and order. But wait. The same case was made by Duterte during his Presidential campaign. This was exactly one of the issues which propelled him to victory. If this is his only achievement in five years, why doesn’t he follow in the same path as Aquino who was detested as he was about to step down?

Think about it. The truth is, Duterte remains popular because of his achievements. Corruption and red tape still exist. Drugs are still on the streets but not as commonplace as before when you could buy shabu from your neighborhood sari-sari store. Rapes and robberies are down. Infrastructure projects have been completed. Virtually every government department and agency have new equipment. The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) have been modernized, though there are still scalawags in the PNP. Disaster response has greatly improved. In terms of pandemic response, we still don’t have a unified contact-tracing system. We are behind in testing, tracing and treatment compare to other countries. The number of new cases daily hasn’t gone down to below 3,000 per day since January. There are more cases in the regions than the National Capital Region and its outskirts (NCR+). The vaccines have arrived but are still in short supply because rich countries cornered production. China and Russia have donated and sold vaccines to the country. Virtually every country that the opposition has cited as having better pandemic response have suffered surges. Malaysia is in lockdown. Singapore is battling the Indian variant. Taiwan has experienced a surge and is behind in vaccination rate. Our economy is still in a recession and it looks like it will be for the rest of the year. Inflation is running at 5%.

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Why is Duterte still popular? The Opposition has thrown everything it can at him but nothing has stuck. What gives? Simply put, Duterte broke the mold of the typical President. He is not your typical President in any aspect. He has given his economic managers free rein to run the economy. He is hands on when it comes to foreign policy and peace and order. He has fired Cabinet members for their involvement in corruption. He hasn’t been linked directly to any scandal. His language is still the same. His messaging is still the same. The truth is, the Opposition don’t have anything on him that resembles a silver bullet that could take him down. They don’t even has a viable Presidential candidate for 2022. Chanco stops short of saying that Filipinos have been put under a spell cast by a group of barangs from Siquijor to ensure Duterte remains popular.

The singular truth is that the Opposition has failed at being the fiscalizer because they have focused more on destablization and demolition jobs. Filipinos believe the Opposition is being elitist and rightly so because they only give lip service to the masses. On June 12, the opposition will gather to select the members of their supposedly unified slate for the 2022 election. There will be no new faces. No contenders. No personalities who have the gravitas to take Duterte head-on. Karma has caught up with the opposition for their past sins to the Filipino people. There is no fight left in them. The battle is lost even before it began. It was lost on May 9, 2016.

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