COMMENTARY: Duterte’s Political Capital



Right now President Rodrigo Duterte has all the aces up his sleeve. Nine out of ten Filipinos gave him a two-thumbs up of trust rating. His fight against drug, which spawned extra-judicial killings gathered feeble discontent with sparse public outcries. His political allies in the Congress and the Senate pledge allegiance in droves; in Toto, he’s blessed with a nonexistent real opposition.

Earlier, Duterte discouraged Pastor Quiboloy, the anointed “Son of God”, a friend of his, who lend him his chopper for Duterte’s use in his campaign – not to meddle with his government. Also, Duterte neutralizes the Church Hierarchy of the CBCP in anticipation of their opposition to the forthcoming legislation of the death penalty. And for them not to obstruct reinvigorating the reproductive health law.

Meanwhile, Duterte disrobed his brusque, vulgar, and thuggish image. He has emerged now as presidential, not vindictive, kind, endowed with humility.

As he promised that he would stop cursing once he took his oath, one would see his effort restraining himself by pausing or chopping his curse into inaudible syllables. But that’s only on occasion when he talks about drugs, which he passionately hates.

When Cardinal Luis Tagle, head of the Catholic Church and retired Cebu Archbishop Ricardo Vidal had a courtesy call at Malacanang, Duterte bowed and kissed their hands. Archbishop Vidal said of Duterte, “he is easy to talk to, a very simple and humble man.”

As a gesture of reconciliation, Duterte also bowed and kissed the hands of the lady Mayor Beng Climaco Zalazar of Zamboanga. To think that the lady mayor fought tooth and nail against Duterte in her turf as she was a staunch supporter of the LP ticket, and neither a fan of Federalism nor of the MNLF headed by Nur Misuari, yet, she received a gentleman’s treat from Duterte without rancor or grudge. It says something profound about Duterte’s other personality.

On July 17, 2016, during Sunday Fellowship Dinner at the Heroes Hall of the Malacanang, Duterte showed his dislike of VIP treatment when he falls in line to get his dinner. A man in front of him offered his spot for him to get ahead. Duterte refused. He said this is a free country and no need of VIP treatment.

Likewise, Duterte issued a directive striking out “His Excellency” as a salutation, address for him in all official communication, materials or event. He just wanted to be called “President Rodrigo Roa Duterte”.

On July 23, 2016, Duterte sent Silverio Bello III, the labor secretary together with him a high caliber team in Riyadh to resolve issues affecting the welfare of the OFW’s. They also bring with them 500 million pesos aids for the OFW Saudi Oger workers and a number of others.

Duterte gave out money, too, to the wounded soldiers recuperating in the hospital after their fight with the Abu Sayyaf group.

At this juncture, with all the aces in his sleeve, Duterte has enormous political capital to back him, and fulfill all that he stated in his 2016 First SONA address, which can be digested into one phrase:

Get it easy for our people to have access to government resources to the pursuit of their well-being and happiness.