Why Duterte appears to be the ‘man on horseback’

Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte: ‘Filipinos are fed up,' says cab driver

Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte: ‘Filipinos are fed up,’ says cab driver

By Jen Furer

Philippine voters seemed angrier now than before I left the country more than two decades ago. They are demanding drastic change in their government.

In my recent travels to Hong Kong. Singapore and the Philippines, concern about the country’s progress was on the minds of the people I spoke with: the cab drivers, journalists, entrepreneurs, OFWs, students, foreigners, including members of my own family.

When they learned I’m Filipino American, people would share their impressions and opinions about the state of the nation. They usually start by saying how we Filipinos have a beautiful country and that we are a hardworking, religious, happy and accepting people.

In one of my conversations with a high school classmate who is now a citizen of Singapore, we wondered how the Philippines seems to be “stuck,” without any solution to the festering problems of traffic, marriage and divorce, crime, poverty and corruption.

Although the Philippines’s credit rating has been raised to “stable,” which makes it an attractive investment destination, there is still a large segment of the population that remains impoverished, infrastructure needs to be upgraded, and some Filipinos still don’t feel safe on the streets of Manila at night.

In the many cab rides I’ve taken in the last two weeks, the electorate seemed most irritated over corruption and peace and order. When I asked who they would vote for, the overwhelming majority of the response is Rodrigo Duterte. Here is a typical conversation I had with a cab driver.

Jen: Who are you voting for President?

Cab Driver: About 98 percent of the passengers I encountered are voting for Duterte because they’re fed up.

Jen: What about the other candidates like (Mar) Roxas. I have friends who said Roxas is the most qualified because he’s instrumental in helping boost the economy.

CD: Roxas is a crony. He has been with the government and yet he hasn’t done anything to end the crime and corruption. You can’t trust the polls and the media here in the Philippines. They can be bought.

Jen: What about (Grace) Poe?

CD: Poe is more American than Filipino. She doesn’t really know what’s best for us, Filipinos…Duterte is tough on crime, especially how he dealt with the drug dealers, the smugglers and pushers. He was able to make Davao safe. People are scared of him so they respect the law. You need that here in the Philippines, especially here in the city. People aren’t scared anymore.

CD (continuing): Some people are voting for Binay. Our voters are not wise voters. They only know what they see on television and they vote on what’s popular.

Jen: There were reports that Duterte is too aggressive and does not follow the constitution, or that he doesn’t care about human rights. Doesn’t that bother you?

CD: We have senators and congressmen. If Duterte violates the Constitution, do you think the senators and congressman will just sit back and not impeach him?

Jen: What if we have another Martial Law under Duterte?

CD: Ma’am, hindi po mangyayari ‘yan. We have a democratic form of government. We have a constitution, Presidents can be impeached, and the congressmen and senators won’t let that happen.

Jen: I heard Duterte curses a lot and does not act presidential.

CD: “Magmumura ang tao kung galit na. Si Duterte galit sa corruption, galit siya sa magnanakaw. If things aren’t working, and a leader is passionate, it’s OK to have strong words kaysa naman balimbing — hindi irerespeto ng mga tao. Corruption is driving the Philippines to its doom. When politicians abuse their powers and take the money from the people of the Republic of the Philippines, they are robbing us of our future.

Senator Ferdinand ‘Bongbong’ Marcos Jr.: ‘The sins of the father are not the sins of the son.’  Getty photo

Senator Ferdinand ‘Bongbong’ Marcos Jr.: ‘The sins of the father are not the sins of the son.’ Getty photo


Jen: On the Vice President, who will you be voting for?

CD: Most of us are voting either Bongbong or Escudero.

Jen: Bongbong? Aren’t you upset that he’s another Marcos?

CD: The sins of the father are not the sins of the son. The VP has to be in the same party as the President, otherwise nothing will get done.

It’s one of many conversations I’ve engaged in. The same thoughts are being repeated by the random people I’ve met and spoken to in the crowded cities of Manila or in the rural provinces. Can the new president weed out corruption, provide a safer Philippines, and solve the aging infrastructure? It remains to be seen.

The Philippine Consulate and the Fil-Am Press Club of New York are jointly hosting a Kapihan-Know Your Candidates forum on March 30 at the Philippine Center’s Kalayaan Hall. I wonder if we Filipino Americans have a different perspective on which of the five presidential candidates is best for the Motherland.

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