Remember: Duterte took the election from Binay, not Roxas
By Joe America
Duterte took the election from Binay, not Roxas.
This is a very significant point, and if you give me a few lines of reading, I’ll explain why.
We have discussed the ‘failure’ of the Aquino government and its designated heir, Mar Roxas, to speak across the great divide to reach the hearts and minds of the masses. But was it really a failure? Or was the chemistry in the hearts and minds of the masses so toxic as to guarantee the rejection of ‘good guy’ politics, and even the rejection of democracy, civility, human rights, and faith?
The poor and the laboring were in a mood for rebellion. So were those stuck in traffic. They were in the market for a strong-man leader they could throw in the face of the establishment. They were impatient. They’d been stuck a lifetime whilst others were getting ahead. Their lot in life was a burden. They were going to vote to punish the people who made them suffer.
The guy riding strong in the early part of the campaign was former Vice President Jejomar Binay. His net satisfaction rating as VP was above 70% and many people were shocked that a man who allegedly got rich by plundering his city’s tax coffers retained his popularity, through thick and thin.
I suspect most of us have forgotten.
But it is clear that the masses were ready to vote for a strong populist. It just happened that Mayor Duterte came crashing in and stole Binay’s thunder.
Indeed, this explains why the satisfaction levels for President Duterte remain high, because the masses are still determined to punish the establishment, the do-gooders who never gave them anything that they could recognize as tangible help.
In that context, the rise of Mar Roxas during the short campaign season was quite remarkable. Market by local market, as he made himself available, more and more people listened, agreed, and saw hope. They saw promise. He made sense. They switched to Mar Roxas. Binay and Poe fell behind.
But mainstream media did not report the Roxas message or his rising popularity as important news. They buried him and went with shock stories and promises of jet skis and filling the bay with bodies. Roxas dominated the debates and the press highlighted the inarticulate jokester Duterte and laughed along with the masses.
It seems that journalism in the Philippines is fundamentally immature, lacking perspective as to its own responsibilities as guardians of democracy and some very important freedoms. The media delivered Duterte on a platter. Sensationalism over responsibility and circulation over the integrity of the Fourth Estate to protect our rights and freedoms.
Putting all this together, I end up with some lessons that seem rather important to me:
- If Duterte had not run, Binay would likely be President, not Roxas.
- The message of Roxas had traction. But it was rolled out too slowly during a short campaign period, and in a way that did not appeal to mainstream media.
- The Roxas message can still find resonance with the masses. Right now it is being suppressed by vicious attacks against Vice President Robredo and Senator De Lima.
- The Duterte people are very much afraid of the Roxas message, which is one of hope, opportunity, pride, and jobs . . . against the darkness of death, incivility, incompetence, shame, and submission to China.
The short-form of the Roxas message, as I recall reading in one of his tweets, is: “We are a great nation. We can be so much better than this.”
The message does not have to be delivered by Mar Roxas himself. But it needs to be delivered in a way that reaches the disenfranchised who feel they have gotten nothing in the past.
Given the price rises they are seeing, and the bowing to China, it may soon strike them that they are getting even less under President Duterte than they did under President Aquino.
The masses, it seems to me, like conflict, hubris, and larger-than-life people and promises.
They also like dumping presidents.