The Duterte camp remain an unmatched force when it comes to engaging ordinary Filipinos

The problem with Opposition blogger Katrina Stuart-Santiago is she’s lucid at some point then irrationality overtakes her and she becomes another mumbling fool like the rest of her cohorts in the so-called 0pposition. In her most recent post, “Ponder propaganda: Fueling the Duterte machine”, she first astutely issues an indictment of her own camp’s handling of their messaging over the last several years culminating in their devastating defeat in the 2022 elections…

[…] we have been driving blind since the campaign for the 2022 elections — maybe even since the Senatorial campaign of 2019. To an extent, it seems like we’ve been content in the delusion that righteousness, with a dollop of troll army, is all that we need to battle it out in this landscape. We believe that because we are “right” then that will win us this battle.

And, as a result, pointing out their situation today observing how, “we are in over our heads where propaganda is concerned, because we have been outdone for most of Duterte’s six years, and we continue to be outdone two years into this Marcos-Duterte leadership.” But then she laments, at some point…

[Former President Rodrigo] Duterte had set the stage for this present, where the opposition, at best, has completely lost its footing, regardless of where we are on that spectrum that spans the Liberals and the Left.

Even before the advent of social media, content has always been the king. Recall how, back in the 1980s, then Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile funded the weekend magazine Mr. & Ms. to get the public thinking and start opposing Marcos. Filipinos could still read back then so it was effective but only up until who the publication reached. I was a teenager then so I had no idea how the masa thought. Think of me as the moron Gen Z or millennial today.

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Three of my staffers are between the age of 24 to 31. They don’t read the news. I asked them who they voted for in 2022. The 24-year-old went for the leading tandem of Leni Robredo and Kiko Pangilinan. The 31-year-old voted for Team Bongbong Marcos and Inday Sara Duterte. The 28-year-old split his vote and went Ping Lacson and Sara Duterte. You know who’s the most entitled? The 24-year-old who graduated cum laude from UPLB and landed her first job which pays P43k per month as an Executive Assistant 2 on a coterminous basis. I asked her why she voted for the two. The answer was she thought they would be best for the country because of the programs under the Office of the Vice President. When I asked her if she knew how government functioned, she couldn’t answer the question. The other two had a simpler answer. Strong leadership is what they were looking for.

I’m no Duterte apologist but he appealed to me in 2016 because of his pragmatism. It was street-smart pragmatism which appealed to the masa and also those in the A, B, and C crowds who wanted peace and order back in their communities. What Stuart-Santiago doesn’t notice is how the Marcos administration has been following in the footsteps of the opposition. The Dutertes are considered to be outliers. Inquirer columnist Richard Heydarian even described former President Duterte as an “anomaly”. The basis for this is they don’t belong to the so-called intellectual class, per their definition. Duterte isn’t known for his sartorial taste but he definitely has intellectual depth.

I wouldn’t say the same for Inday because she’s a millennial as well. Clearly she’s not at the same level as her father intellectually. To my mind, the 24-year-old UPLB grad defines the Opposition voter base, with a sprinkling of the masa from Region 5. Tribalism is the reason for this. But in terms of communication, it’s hard to beat Duterte at this game. He knows exactly which buttons to push and when. None of his rivals possess anywhere near the same inherent ability Duterte applies in engaging the public successfully.

There’s not much to look forward to in the next four years because the Opposition and President Bongbong Marcos are now sharing Uncle Sam’s bed. They also have made the Dutertes a common enemy. They think this is enough for them to last through the next four years and beyond. Without a new and genuine opposition led by the Dutertes, the public has no choice so they will settle for Marcos and his cousin House Speaker Martin Romualdez eventually. Former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (GMA) doesn’t look like she will break away from the most powerful political bloc in the country today. She will be content to have a nominal seat without any real power.

Duterte’s only protection now against persecution are the Senators who are still in his camp. Their reelection is going to be his priority unless he decides to come out of retirement for what will be a bigger battle than his presidential campaign — to become the legitimate opposition and fiscalize the Marcos administration.

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