Self-anointed disente Filipinos were aghast with what they described as the balasubas (uncouth) behaviour of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte as he delivered his second State of the Nation Address (SONA) last Monday. The alluring Senator Risa Hontiveros, one of Duterte’s chief critics in the Senate sported her hottest resting bitch face (RBF) which she kept locked on in a show of passive-aggressive contempt for the president over much of the session. The holier-than-thouTwitterati of the Opposition cringed and whinged over “live tweets” throughout, remaining glued to the tube despite their pain. Trending wannabes kept score on a SONA bingo sheet the results of which they later published in memes showing how many cusses and mentions of “drahhggsz” they chalked up over those two hours of cringe.
If there was anything significant that the Duterte Show achieved, it was in demonstrating just how irrelevant the old guard of the disente crowd had become. In essence, Duterte drove a clattering jeepney right into Congress and onto the screens on which Filipinos’ eyeballs were glued for two hours and reminded everyone who the Filipino really is.
Hold that thought for a moment and consider The Jeepney; erstwhile symbol of Filipino “ingenuity” and persistent cultural icon. They may now be regarded as anything but a symbol of “ingenuity” in the normal sense of that word but they remain the same unfortunate Filipino cultural icon. Jeepneys still rule Philippine roads with impunity, spewing corrosive fumes, flouting every road rule, and fouling up traffic flow. By virtue of their sheer price-crushing numbers, they hold the public transport industry hostage and attract politicians’ pandering virtually assuring their continued reign as the Philippines’ King of the Road.
If one needs a sweeping archetype of the average Filipino, look no further than the jeepney.
For as long as Filipinos tolerate the way this astounding social cancer makes a mockery of civil behaviour on the ground, Filipinos will lack any ascendancy to judge bad manners and bad behaviour above ground.
It should be no mystery why the way Duterte wears who he is on his sleeve today is so refreshing to Filipinos. It is beause he introduces consistency in what was once a fake democracy. I would have liked to have said that not one of the many presidents who sat in Malacanang actually mirrored the Filipino electorate as accurately and that Duterte broke that trend. However, in actual fact, former President Joseph “Erap” Estrada beat Duterte to that title in 1998. But the Erap presidency provides important context to the Duterte administration. Like Duterte today, Erap was relentlessly demonised by the same camp of disente Filipinos (at the time just as presumpuously calling themselves “civil society”) and, on the back of that vilification campaign, was successfully removed from office illegally. Fast forward to today and it is now easy to see with the benefit of that hindsight that the ouster of Erap is being used as the same model by the same mob to end the Duterte government prematurely.
It is no coincidence that the two Filipino presidents who best mirrored the average Filipino — Erap and Duterte — were subject to virtually the same demonisation campaigns by the same cliques of chatterati backed by the same industry and institution (i.e. mainstream news media and the Roman Catholic Church respectively). Erap was unfortunate in that whilst his voters were real Filipinos, those who surrounded him once in power and those who had the power to vilify him were not representative of that real sector. What Duterte did today that Erap failed to do then was to bring Manila’s imperial court face-to-face with who he is — a true representative of his voters.
What escapes the pompous “influencers” of the Opposition who sneer at Duterte’s conduct during the SONA is that they are, in reality, sneering at the real Filipino. After all, in a democracy, elected leaders, in principle, reflect the collective character of The Vote.