The Duterte magnet
posted 13-Mar-2016  ·  
4,731 views  ·   0 comments  ·  

TABACO CITY —The first time I encountered Mayor Rodrigo Duterte up close was in this bustling city last Friday (March 4) during a presidential campaign rally organized by the local Partido Democratikong Pilipino –Laban (PDP-Laban) under Atty. Ted Contacto, party head for Bicol. It was past noontime, the heat rather unbearable, when Tabaconons started massing at a large park fronting the city hall, most of them without any idea of what the hardliner Davao City mayor looks like in person. The only visual they have of him was in television news and commercials and that sensational appearance during the televised presidential debate in Cagayan de Oro City hosted by Jessica Soho and Mike Enriquez of GMA Channel 7. Despite the intense afternoon heat, crowds from all walks of life came in droves on their own, the number peaking at 3.30 pm. Noticeably absent were the hired buses and jeepneys that are normally commissioned during political rallies. Absolutely no “hakot”, in other words. People came without the enticements of packed snacks and the envelopes. After a brief call on the city’s parish priest, Duterte walked into City Hall where a center stage was set up also to accommodate PDP-Laban delegations from outside of Albay province. I can easily estimate the crowd at about 4,000 to 5,000, all of them ceaselessly craning their heads everytime Duterte’s whereabouts is announced. What a fascinated crowd! The Davao City mayor must be packing a load of magnets with him!  

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But beyond the spectacle of the crowd, I was impressed with how the Tabaconons displayed deep interest in the coming May 9 polls. They are a people enlightened politically and they do understand their stakes in the presidential elections. As Duterte recited on stage a litany of his programs plus his disappointments and frustrations over the country’s problems, Tabaconons responded correspondingly: thunderous applause whenever Duterte zeroed in on such issues as the national illegal drugs problem, criminality all over, graft and corruption in government, widespread poverty, the protracted Mindanao conflict and his advocacy of federalism through which he hoped to strengthen the LGUs and the regions politically and economically, so that they will not be dependent forever on what he calls “imperial Manila” which has for long imposed a stranglehold on government operations at the expense of the country’s regions.

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How he is in person is nothing different from what the newspapers, the TV and radio portray him since he threw his hat into the presidential derby. He is an ordinary Filipino, a natural-born citizen, physically of Malay-brown descent and medium in built and height. He is not a not a fanciful dresser. He seemed to be safe with a lean group of security escorts. He faced the huge Tabaco crowd, possibly ever alert that his focused campaign against narco-politics could not cause him harm. To the delight of the crowd, he broke his speeches with his usual unprintables and authentic Visayan twang. That was Duterte at close range and he seemed authentic. What you see, what you hear is what you get, says a Duterte aide. The crowd roared approvingly when he spewed out his deathly warnings against drug lords and narcotic traffickers and his intention to work out, if elected, capital punishment for grafters. His “shoot-to-kill motto” did not frighten the crowd, who obviously are more fearful of criminals lurking in every corner of this Christian country, victimizing the young, the old and the innocent.

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The warm welcome, the interest and the voluntariness of the Tabaconons were poignant signs that by nature, Bicolanos are always in fighting form where politics is the issue. Bicol is a traditional opposition bailiwick because we are not a bunch of conformists especially when indications of a corrupt government and administration surface. Let us remember that Bicolandia is where some of the sensational whistleblowers in corruption cases came from. It is also the home of notable coup plotters who, feeling that corruption and dishonesty are not in the grain of the Bicolano culture, have repeatedly rose up in arms to seek reforms in society. Change, as what Duterte has promised Bicolanos, is his campaign template. He knows that at the end of each day, people tend to review whether a difference in their daily quest has been achieved or that something good will happen the next day. This certainly appeals to Filipino voters who are tired of hearing sordid stories about crime, conflicts, thievery in public offices and the perceptible unequal distribution of the country’s wealth and resources. So that keeping any status quo, as espoused by another political party, is exactly no longer in their minds.

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Duterte’s Tabaco sortie, full of impact as it was, was followed hours later by a bigger gathering at the Legazpi City Astrodome where thousands scrambled to the rafters to hear this “Donald Trump” of the 2016 Philippine presidential campaign. Catandunganons who rubbed elbows with Duterte staff in the two Albay events must have been satisfied and wished profusely that Duterte ought to come back to the island and fumigate its “pera-pera” infection.

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Sidelights: Among the Catandunganons seen in the Duterte events in Albay were some 2016 hopefuls: Virac mayoralty candidate Manuel “Awe” Tablizo, PBM candidates Fernando Chavzs and Edward Tenoria and Bato SB candidates Rustom Asejo and Thelma Jaime. They are reportedly set to join the PDP- Laban. Also seen was my Viga contemporary Atty. Susan U. Ordinario who is involved actively in the federalism movement, lending much-needed legal support to the Duterte camp.               

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ROSULO welcomes comments via: rosmanlangit@yahoo.com

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