The writing is on the wall. Brand Duterte is a sinking ship and it is taking down with it the cadre of cling-ons that hitched a ride on it during the previous term of former President Rodrigo Duterte. The Dutertes, if we recall, were disadvantaged from the very beginning. The former president was a “dark horse” candidate back in the campaign lead up to 2016 — a candidate from the Philippines’ deep south up against the Establishment politicos of Imperial Manila.
It helped Duterte at the time that the incumbent Philippine president then was the late Benigno Simeon “BS” Aquino III. Aquino, we recall, was a bumbling president who, over the course of his presidency, single-handedly squandered the vast political capital of the Yellowtard-Communist Axis which peaked when he was catapulted to power by the death of his mother, former President Cory Aquino in 2009. Duterte, at the time, presented an alternative to the traditional inbred oligarchy that ruled the Philippines since 1946 and a strong case for “change” that won him the presidency.
Duterte, of course, remains a popular figure and his daughter, current Vice President Inday Sara Duterte who herself enjoys a strong cult following, basks under the halo her father casts upon their joint “die hard” fan base. Unfortunately for the Dutertes, popularity matters less in between elections, specially at a time when street parliamentarianism had been rendered obsolete by overuse. In between elections, institutional power wins. This is the sort of power we see today being wielded against the Dutertes — political and financial mutual favours sealed by oligarchs on golf courses in Manila’s chi chi residential enclaves translating to “court rulings” favourable to certain people, inquiries “in aid of legislation” turning into kangaroo courts, and wholesale re-pivots in foreign policy.
|SUPPORT INDEPENDENT SOCIAL COMMENTARY!
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!
This all should come as no surprise to the Dutertes themselves. They, after all, played the same game back when they were the powers-that-be. Filipinos have a term for that reality that they use to dismiss the shrill whining we now hear about said reality — pana-panahon lang yan (“peoples’ times under the sun come and go”).
The trouble with Brand Duterte is that it is propped up by mediocre “bloggers” and “influencers”, unstatesman-like political allies, and crooked media outlets. To be fair the same could be said of the Yellowtard-Communist Axis; what with the droning repetitive way with which they spin recycled slogans around their obsolete ideologies and elevate idiots like Jover Laurio to sainthood with the blessings of no less than the Ateneo de Manila University. The Dutertes, for their part, kept clowns like Bong Go, Senator Bato dela Rosa, and Pastor Apollo Quiboloy in their court and, while they collectively pushed a consistent messaging around toughness on criminals and terrorists and improved solidarity with the Philippines’ peers in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) that resonated (and continues to do so today) with ordinary Filipinos, it didn’t help that these people were utter incompetents in the PR game.
In short, the game was played by both the Dutertes and the Yellowtard-Communist Axis and is now being played — so far very well — by what many now see to be the consolidating Marcos-Romualdez political camp of President Bongbong Marcos. People interpret the slide of the Dutertes back “down under” from where they came from as one of a deliberate demolition by today’s powers-that-be. The reality is likely to be less dramatic. The Dutertes are mere collateral damage in what is really just traditional jostling for position and access to resources that is par for the course in Philippine politics.
For the Dutertards, key to their survival (or, at least, ability to remain in the game) is to play well. Try the dramatics, try the antics, try the courts, and try the media, sure. Key, however, is in taking stock of the results of those tactics, analysing the data and, off those, re-evaluating strategy continuously. Key for them winning this round is to be not like the Yellowtards and their commie pals who failed to analyse the data, failed to re-evaluate their trajectory, failed to evolve, and, as a result, lost an entire nation.
benign0 is the Webmaster of GetRealPhilippines.com.