By Atty. Salvador S. Panelo

Few weeks to the presidential election in May, 2016, and there appears to be a Duterte fever sweeping the country. It is a contagion that can not be contained notwithstanding the onslaught of negative campaign against him by the forces that either resist change or are fearful of the unknown.

Hamstrung by lack of finances as the tough-talking and cuss-spewing Davao City Mayor refuses to accept financial contributions from the usual huge financiers in a conscious effort to avoid indebtedness to them – Duterte directly appealed to the people in a taped video aired over DZRJ, and uploaded on the Facebook page of the The Philippine Star, that went viral in the internet, for them to be their campaigners – and asked the housewives and the youth to make campaign T-shirts for him while asking the carpenters to make campaign billboards out of wood scraps.

Duterte’s unorthodox video has reached over two million Facebook users, more than half a million views, over three (3) thousand comments, more than seventy one (71,000) likes and forty-one (41), thousand shares as of this writing.

As if in response to Duterte’s public appeal, cross-sections of society rose to boost the cash-strapped Duterte campaign, individually making their own campaign paraphernalia for the Davao City Mayor. Duterte bowlers with various slogans have proliferated, evidently coming from rich Duterte supporters who paid for their production. Duterte campaign shirts with beautiful designs in various shapes and sizes with different slogans but bearing Duterte’s name are seen being worn by persons of all walks of life. Magnetic car stickers have appeared on the sides as well as in the front and back of cars, SUVs and cabs. Catchy Duterte jingles composed by ardent artists-admirers have filled the air.

The Duterte fever has caught fire and the conflagration has spread across the land leaving in its wake the eschewed ashes of the people’s frustration magically resurrecting like a phoenix in a rebirth of hope for a new beginning of governance.

The meteoric rise of the probinsiyano Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte in the political firmament has been momentarily stalled by some unnecessary and expected missteps (one of which is the imagined cursing of the Pope), owing to the character of the man.

The people’s fascination of the political maverick is not surprising because Rodrigo Duterte is honest and transparent, he calls a spade a spade; He curses and cusses; He demeans himself; He devalues his own currency; He makes incorrect political statements that scares rich businessmen who finance presidential candidates as their insurance to avoid suits that would land them in jail; He inspires the criminals and the drug lords to launch a conspiracy to assassinate him – even as they shudder in mortal fear of him ending their existence. Duterte does not court votes, he rejects them, and appears to entice the voters to reject him at the polls arguing that he has not tasted political defeat and would not mind losing the election, but that precisely makes the man the political animal that has caught the imagination of all classes of people in our society.

In a recorded speech before a multi-sectoral audience, an excerpt of which is soon to be aired as a campaign commercial in major television networks, the charismatic Davao City Major Rodrigo Duterte, made an impressive take on the country’s situation and visualized how he will tackle it, and in a tone ringing with truth and characteristic confidence, with the cadence of forceful determination, he solemnly declares:

“There is so much trouble in this country. There is absolutely no peace. It’s very disorderly and people do not have security. The obedience to the law is almost optional. Crime, drugs, corruption in government, I will finish them. My God, I hate drugs! I propose that when I am President I would get rid of drugs, corruption, and criminality. Just give me three (3) to six (6) months, I’ll do it for you – I’ll deliver.”

Crime, drugs and corruption are the major problems that have bedeviled the country, and to the citizenry who have been sweet-talked – if not swindled by the political power wielding politicians with their empty rhetorics of good governance, only a Rodrigo Duterte can effect the radical change in the political and economic structure.

To the vast majority of the Filipinos, Rodrigo Duterte, as demonstrated throughout his public service, is the only presidential candidate untainted by corruption, a power-holder who has no sense of entitlement as he enforces the law even against himself and his daughter, the equally feisty former Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte, on traffic violations; a man whose honesty about himself and his character is unmatched and unquestioned; a public official who does what he says, regardless of direct consequences; the only politician who has risked his own life many times for the release of a hostage – substituting himself for the latter. A City Mayor who employs unorthodox but effective method in enforcing the law, making the criminals cower in fear in the process; and the only presidential candidate who if elected President, has pledged to resign his office, if he can not deliver on his promise to suppress criminality, drugs and corruption within six (6) months.

To the average man on the street, Duterte represents hope for change – and the winds of charge have grown stronger as election day nears.

Against the advise of well-meaning friends and supporters, Duterte has not put a stop to what political pundits believe to be incorrect if not outrageous political statements that frighten voters. Believing that the presidency is destiny – Duterte continues to test the limits of the people’s acceptance and awe of him. Despite his unyielding demeanor, it seems that Duterte’s political luster has not faded even as his rivals and detractors picture him as dangerous and reckless, and has all the potential of becoming a Dictator. Duterte is unfazed and unbowed. He presents himself to the electorate, warts and all. He admits he is a Dictator but not in the sense that he will be an absolute ruler with his word as law – but as he puts it: “As President I will dictate the tempo of my governance and within my term limits in accordance with the Constitution.”

Duterte is a lawyer and he is fiercely protective of the Constitution, the flagrant violations of which, have propelled him to seek the presidency of the land.

The SWS and the Pulse surveys have placed Duterte either landing in the fourth place or statistically tied with the other candidates – but invariably when you ask an amalgam of society, e.g. white collar-job employees, taxi, jeepney, and tricycle drivers, contractual workers, waiters, mall workers, professionals, the wealthy class, university students, netizens household help, family drivers, motorcycle riders, housewives, policemen, soldiers, bank employees, teachers, etc. – you get a universal chorus of wanting and choosing Duterte for a President.

No amount of misleading surveys could derail the momentum that the Duterte storm has unleashed. The enormous propaganda machine launched by the three (3) other presidential candidates on television, radio and the newspapers have not created a dent on the Duterte bandwagon other than create a superficial image of a tight presidential race.

Neither has the recent Supreme Court’s decision qualifying the only incumbent Senator running for President, whose loyalty to the country she claims to have been born at, has been under question, in addition to her debatable natural-born Filipino status, which the majority members of the highest court apparently have affirmed, could alter the current political landscape.

Contrary to the claims that the aforesaid Supreme Court’s decision is a game-changer, meaning that it will make the celebrated foundling win the presidency, it is not. The tide pointing to a Duterte presidency is irreversible. While the SWS and the Pulse surveys paint a neck and neck presidential contest, the reality on the ground however evidently shows a looming Duterte presidency, with only the magical hocos pcos machine delaying Duterte’s assumption to the highest post of the land – as well as his date with destiny and appointment with history.

President Rodrigo Duterte – ah … there is a nice ring to it…

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