“The Filipino public elected Duterte to the presidency because they wanted a tough guy… They wanted a guy who could impose order on the Philippines.” –Stephen Sackur, BBC
With every news network broadcasting stories every day depicting senators standing behind a microphone condemning President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on illegal drugs, crying people draped over the coffin of a family member who was killed after resisting arrest on illegal drug suspicions, and “human rights groups” taking to the streets in protest of what they imagine to be “state-sponsored extrajudicial killings” and, yet, the president is still pulling in incredible approval ratings.
Even dismissing local poll companies like Social Weather Stations (SWS) and Pulse Asia, both of which have come under question on various occasions, a recent poll by the Pew Research Center, a nonpartisan agency based in Washington, DC, found Duterte to have an overall 86 percent approval rating – with 41 percent rating him “very favorable” and 45 percent saying “somewhat favorable.”
Despite the numbers, given how many in the news media are portraying a chaotic situation coming out of Malacañan Palace, international observers see a dire situation in the country – equivalent perhaps to how one would look at Syria. However, the situation could not be more different. As evidence of how skewed a depiction of the country is in the media, when last visiting New York City in May of this year, was often asked by friends, “Is everything OK in the Philippines?” Many also asked about personal views about the president, a result of the media portraying him to be this bloodthirsty dictator of Fidel Castro proportion.
In the same way many supporters and allies of the Liberal Party (LP) want to portray the detention of Senator Leila De Lima as merely politics and waving the banner of human rights, they consistently fail to acknowledge allegations of links to illegal drugs. A warrant was issued by Judge Juanita Guerrero of the Muntinlupa City Regional Trial Court, had she been arrested without a warrant, then perhaps the opposition would have some validity in their argument – but, in the end, their side is purely based on politics and propaganda.
The way the administration and the current situation in the country are being presented is also a likely reason Pew conducted the survey, to get a pulse of the situation on the ground, and not just partisan figures begging for a camera in their face.
Beyond favorability, as perhaps one could say those surveyed were judging based on personality, the said poll also found 78 percent approve of the president’s war on illegal drugs; 68 percent support the tactics imposed to reduce crime; and 64 percent approve of how he is handling the terror threat, given the ongoing situation with the Islamic State-backed Maute group in Marawi City.
Professor Sylvia Estrada Claudio of the University of the Philippines (UP) claimed, in a column for online news website Rappler, opinion polls are not providing a “real picture” of the support for the president.
She characterizes the results of opinion polls during the Duterte administration as “’unusual’ is an understatement,” claiming people respond to polls “in a manner that they believe will protect them from repercussion” – as if to say the Philippines were comparable to North Korea.
Besides a presumed tyrannical state the Filipino people are apparently living under, Claudio also argues many who answer polls are overly concerned with the impression others have of them. Which may be true, considering the phenomenon many believe resulted in polls preceding the 2016 United States presidential election giving former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton an overwhelming margin over then-candidate Donald Trump, in that case, the theory was people were too timid to admit they were supporting Trump, resulting in skewed polling.
What solidifies her argument as a typical elitist position, however, is her consternation about only poor people being polled and the rich are not typically questioned. Given the country has been mired in poverty for decades, aren’t those striving every day making a living the ones to determine whether the country is moving in the right direction? The rich have remained rich no matter who is in office, should polling be more focused on seeing if the rich are living comfortably?
A 2014 Manila Times column by Rigoberto Tiglao discussed the stagnation of poverty in the country since the 1986 EDSA Revolution, which ousted former President Ferdinand Marcos and installed Corazon Aquino – given she lost an election, somehow the act of ousting a sitting president is the definition “democracy” (according to her minions).
He displayed a chart of gross domestic product (GDP) in the Philippines, which showed countries like Indonesia, Thailand, and Malaysia on a constant upward direction since 1986, with the Philippines sputtering along and falling behind all three.
“Our GDP per capita of $1,501 in 2012 was roughly that of South Korea in 1961, Malaysia in 1972, and Thailand in 1990,” he explained. “In effect, we’re behind South Korea by half a century, Malaysia by four decades, and Thailand by two decades.”
With those kinds of numbers and the multitudes of families seen sleeping on the streets, wandering begging for money, and living in shanty villages across the country, the lifestyles of the wealth, while constantly flaunted on television (across a variety of genres), is not necessarily representative of most of the country.
Tiglao’s column may, in fact, explain Claudio’s perspective of catering to the wealthy, noting, the primary result of the People Power Movement was putting the elites back in power – conceivably, with the elites considering themselves the arbiters of the country, the UP professor believes their opinion should also be the driving force in determining how the impoverished are coping.
“The EDSA Revolution restored the power of our oligarchs, and the country’s oligarchic structure created by colonial powers, and of course, its ideological superstructure, Spanish Catholicism,” he explained.
“Our state since 1986 has been a weak one, standing not for the nation as a whole but only for the strong elites that control it,” Tiglao pointed out. “The elites get what they want, at the expense of the changing our social structures so our country would be more productive.”
BBC anchor Stephen Sackur, during the now-infamous interview with Senator Antonio Trillanes IV, completely ripped apart the senator as his barrage of questions were met with partisan talking points, exposing the feebleness of the opposition’s argument.
Trillianes, representing the minority bloc in the Senate, offered the interviewer a denial of an existing drug problem in the country, a misinterpretation of political ideology, a dismissal of public polling, an inability to argue the validity of an impeachment case against the president, and responded with drivel when asked about his previous attempts to remove former presidents from office.
Sure, polls can be flawed – the 2016 US presidential election is a prime example – however, an outside body like the Pew Research Center, with seemingly no interest in Philippine affairs, is echoing what many domestic polling bodies have been saying since Duterte took office. Even a CNN report from August 2016 cited a Pew Poll that found Clinton leading Trump 41 to 37, yet it is still a far cry from other polls at the time, which gave the former first lady a solid double digit lead – mostly likely, as what happened to the Los Angeles Times poll, which also found Trump in a competitive race, most in the mainstream media dismissed the result as an “outlier.”
After being ushered in by Aquino in 1986, the elites have taken control of many, if not all, sectors of society, and, in the form of activists and elected officials, are showing just how out of touch they are with the general public – the people they refer to as “the masses.”
Much like what happened in the US in their election, the “have nots” and the disregarded populations of the Philippines took advantage of an opportunity to make an impact in May 2016. The elites want to claim installing the unelected wife of a senator is democracy, while dismissing the result of “the masses” having their voices heard in an election as “unusual.”/WDJ