The tribe has spoken. Rodrigo Duterte is President-elect of the Philippines. To the world, this choice looks like a decision made by a lunatic – we picked a man who made light of rape, insulted the Pope and ran on a platform ripped from the violent rulebook of the Queen of Hearts: Off With Their Heads! (In Six Months or Bust).
I don’t see it as an unparalleled horror the way some people do. We have sent representatives to the Miss Universe pageant in spite of laughable lapses in grammar and elocution. Elocution, diplomacy, sensitivity, tact, can these things not be taught? Fierceness, a dedication to doing the right thing and the ability to dish out tough love and walk the talk? These things, not so much.
Rodrigo Duterte represents the discontent of a certain demographic that is no longer apathetic and no longer silent. We chose him not only because of who he is and what he’s accomplished, we also chose him because of what he represents. Discipline. Honesty. Results. Because he hails from the south, he also represents a changing of the old guard, a leader who did not gain power by riding the crest of a wave of sympathy generated by his mother’s death. Here is someone who does his work quietly and diligently without expecting rewards or recognition. Duterte has been known to decline awards, saying he does what he does because it is what he was elected to do. He understands that at its core, the emphasis on being a public servant is on the servant part, not the public part.
This was not the voice of a people who voted based on star power and star power alone. This felt like the calculated decision of a people who are sick of the status quo: paying through the nose to fund an administration that’s been in power for for the better part of three decades and seeing meagre returns on investment. This was not about voting for whoever could keep the wheel turning; this was about voting for someone who could break the wheel. (All rise for Duterte Harry, the First of His Name, Protector of the Realm, Breaker of Chains and Father of Davao City.)
The only ones who will fully understand why Duterte won are the ones who live or have have actually lived in the Philippines. Some will say this is the triumph of the nation’s collective id. I don’t disagree. In an age where we require speed and expect results instantly, is this really surprising? Isn’t the notion that we can eradicate crime, dispense justice and have the whole nation looking, feeling and acting like the sparkling Utopia of Davao City – all within a short amount of time – almost too tempting to resist?
To the outside world, we are a nation on the rise. Our glamorous, worldly denizens have enough disposable income to buy name-brand products and sit around sipping expensive frappucinos. This picture is misleading and incomplete.
Our economy may be on the upswing, but the Philippines is still a country where plunder is expected, red tape is everywhere and greasing palms can be the fastest way to get things done. It is a country where the minimum wage barely covers a basic human need like food, not to mention housing, clothing, education and health care. It is a country where rules are bent and justice either takes forever to come, or never comes at all. All this happens as we watch people in power amass wealth. They keep getting richer, we keep getting poorer. How did we let our country come to this? Why did we let ourselves go?
Electing Rodrigo Duterte was the national equivalent of a master cleanse. This was us as a nation, staring at the condition our fat, bloated, unhealthy country is in with loathing and not a little anger, deciding once and for all to dump the pork (barrel) and kick start ourselves into regaining the mythical, sylph-like conditions that we were said to have enjoyed as a country, once upon a time.
Is the master cleanse healthy? It’s ten days of nothing but lemon water, maple syrup, cayenne pepper, salt flushes and laxatives. It is essentially a diet that prompts the body to do nothing but have excessive diarrhea for days. A cleanse is meant to jumpstart weight loss and help break the cycle of unhealthy eating. For it to really work, one must sustain the change.
Anyone who takes six months literally, is insane. It took years for Davao City to become the showcase it is today. Nothing this good happens overnight. We will need to help the man we put in office to help us change the country. Let’s not stand back and wait for him to crash and burn. We owe it to ourselves and this cleanse we have committed ourselves to.