People all over the western world have been scratching their heads over the continual popularity of the Philippines President Duterte.
He has enjoyed high ratings over the past 15 months that have never faulted. Despite the frequent complaints and allegations of extrajudicial killings and concrete evidence of multiple innocents being targeted, this has not hurt his trust ratings.
The explanation of collateral damage for a higher purpose is accepted by the masses. Or so it seemed.
In fact, a recent SWS survey rated the Duterte Government highly on human rights. On the surface, you could say this Government looks bulletproof.
You could list multiple scandals that would single-handedly topple a government in most western countries every single month. The most recent incidents include:
- False allegations against a Senator Trillianes of offshore bank accounts and hidden wealth. When the Senator quickly disproved these allegations the President acknowledged that he made this up and that it was part of his plan. We are yet to see what that plan was, or its purpose. Such a bold and blatant lie would see trust ratings plummet for any regular politician.
- The President’s pre-election narrative that he was born into a poor family was contradicted this week when he stated that his family left him millions in property and that he was a wealthy man before he left college. This is either a blatant election lie or a justification for money that he now has. In the same week, he has refused to sign a waiver to open up his bank accounts for scrutiny.
- Paolo Duterte, the Vice Mayor of Davao and the President’s son has been accused of masterminding a p6.4 billion shipment of shabu that was intercepted last month. The allegations include that he is a member of the Chinese Triad and has a tattoo to support the allegation. Paolo Duterte has refused to show the tattoo to this day.
- President Duterte has bragged about illegally wiretapping the phone calls of suspected drug personalities. Make of that what you will.
Four incidents of the caliber that would ruin political careers in just a few weeks. You can be sure that next month there will be a new list just as scandalous, and even more outrageous.
The question of why is actually an easy one to answer. The Philippines has been the victim of decades of neglect by their leaders and they are desperate for solutions. Duterte offers fast and drastic solutions and the hope that he is right trumps all else.
But no matter how much political capital someone has, it does not last unless the results live up to the promise.
Duterte has always been divisive, even if the survey results do not show this. His leadership is deepening those divides and the opposition is spreading.
The recent day of protest on September 21 saw a rally of an estimated 30,000 people gather to protest the actions of the government. The number was dismissed by government supporters as being minuscule compared to the numbers in support of the president. But when you take into consideration how difficult it is to travel across Manila this kind of gathering should make the government stand up and take notice.
There is a growing part of the population that is unhappy and cannot be dismissed as purely political opposition. They are embarrassed by what has happened, and they are scared for the future of their country.
The deeper that Duterte gets into his term, the more he contradicts the speeches he has made previously. People are starting to wonder whether their faith was misplaced in this rough and tough messiah from the south.
His vision for the Philippines was admirable at the beginning, but his ability to execute is becoming doubtful. Whether he can retain the strong dedicated support for the rest of his term remains to be seen. Perhaps putting his ego and personal vendettas aside, and concentrating fully on the job at hand would be a start.