Technically the campaign period for the 2016 presidential elections has not started yet, but even now the Philippines is seeing the candidates make their presence known on print media, broadcast media, social media, and other forms of communication. Among the candidates who are seemingly attracting the most attention nowadays are Liberal Party (LP) standard bearer Mar Roxas, and Davao city mayor Rodrigo “Digong” Duterte.
Both Roxas and Duterte have their own collections of sound bites, quotable quotes, promotional material, statements of “plans” and other things to keep them in the consciousness of the voters. I guess the term “competing for market share” is somehow appropriate in this context.
The results that each of them has gotten, however, have been wildly different. In Roxas’s case, it seems that the more he opens his mouth, or appears in media, the more he turns off the voters. Duterte, on the other hand, can pretty much say and do anything at this point, and he’ll still have supporters gushing over him and hanging on to every word that he says.
Why does Mar Roxas get ridiculed for what he says and does, while Digong Duterte does not? The simple answer is what leadership guru John Maxwell calls “The Law of Buy-in”.
The Law of Buy-in simply states that: before people buy into what you are presenting to them, they have to buy into you first.
What makes people buy into someone? Credibility. If we were to summarize all the factors that word would most definitely be one of those used.
To a growing proportion of the electorate, Mar has simply lost whatever credibility he had in the first place. People will forever associate him with the bungled and politicized government response to typhoon Haiyan (“You are a Romualdez and the president is an Aquino”), his utter cluelessness with the Mamasapano incident (and his usage of the non-word “misencounter”), for example. As if that weren’t enough, he has made statements in interviews that rubbed people the wrong way. How can anyone forget one of his statements about the bullet-planting scheme in Manila International Airport (“Kung nagpasok ka ng contraband sa airport, paano naging problema ng gobyerno ‘yun?”), and his “isteep by isteep” comment which earned him the ire of the Bisaya-speaking populace who perceived him as making fun of their accent.
Digong, on the other hand, has earned and continues to earn credibility due to the results he has gotten in Davao. Davao residents have nothing but praise for him and the way he applies an iron fist to tackling crime within his city. Whether or not one agrees with his methods (Etta Rosales from the Commission on Human Rights certainly doesn’t), one can’t argue with his success.
A big part of what forms credibility is an intangible called authenticity. It is this authenticity that enables people to form some sort of connection with you. Consequently, once this connection is formed, it is what enables people to buy into you in the first place.
Mar Roxas, quite simply, appears inauthentic in the eyes of the people. He is trying to be something he isn’t. He’s trying to appear as if he relates to the common tao when in fact he’s a haciendero, a member of the landed oligarchy here in the Philippines. Parang pilit ba. As a result, anything he tries to do makes him look awkward and condescending. In addition, as a friend of mine said, nagmamalinis siya (he’s trying to make himself look squeaky clean, or he’s trying to wash himself of his stink). As a result, any picture of him doing everyday things will merely cop him more ridicule.
Digong Duterte, on the other hand, is perceived to wear his real self – warts and all – for the whole electorate to see. Depending on one’s perspective, he will be seen as “merely being honest” or “unabashedly and unapologetically boorish”. He is not afraid to do in public what many Filipinos do in private anyway – be it pepper his sentences with cuss words, or admit unreservedly about the number of women he has at any given time, or to make passive-aggressive and/or provocative statements left and right.
Perhaps we can say, then, that Filipinos have developed an authenticity and bullshit detector, however crude one may perceive it to be (hey, it doesn’t work all the time, look how that worked out with current president Benigno Simeon “BS” Aquino). Mar just makes it ring out loud; Digong does not.
As a final note, perhaps something we can look at, that is in a way related to credibility and authenticity and making a connection, is what Mar and Digong induce in the electorate.
Duterte seems to induce a repressed desire in Filipinos to take the law into their own hands and eliminate those whom they find undesirable for whatever reason, and those who disagree with them.
Mar, on the other hand, induces vomiting.
And now the current chapter in their head-to-head battle is now over myths. Mar is asserting that Davao’s safety has been a myth, while Digong has been hitting on whether Mar can really considered a graduate of Wharton. They’ve even thrown challenges at each other to engage in a sampalan (slap fight).
Philippine politics may not be much different after six years under the Aquino administration, but it has definitely lost something again. In the previous election, competence and qualifications were thrown out the window. This year, it seems that manners, conduct, and common decency will be the ones to leave.
More popcorn, please.