Politics is not a battle between right and wrong, good and evil. It is, instead, a battle of competing interests. Political support happens when a politician convinces the polity that a sufficient number of the latter’s self-interests align with those of the politician.
I believe this is why President Duterte remains widely popular, while the opposition continues to fail in its quest to gain significant public support.
Let me expound on that.
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs lists five basic interests: Physiological, Safety, Belonging, Esteem, and Self-Actualization.
PHYSIOLOGICAL: The economy is doing pretty well. As long as people have jobs, they won’t significantly complain about physiological needs. Life is tough as it has always been, but it’s improving. Inasfar as the opposition is concerned, there’s little opportunity here for stealing political support.
SAFETY: This is a core platform of the Duterte administration (anti-crime, anti-drugs, anti-corruption), so there’s little opportunity for the opposition here either. Add the fact that crimes, drugs, and corruption proliferated under the previous administration, which was comprised mostly of today’s opposition.
Yes, there’s that lingering extrajudicial killing (EJK) issue that the opposition loves to complain about. Remember that we are talking about self-interest in the context of politics so that the issue more aptly belongs to the fifth category (self-actualization). For as long as the vast majority of Filipinos don’t feel that they are likely to be an EJK victim, EJK will not be a safety issue.
BELONGINGNESS: Duterte’s acerbic rhetoric, while off-putting for the uppity and prim-and-proper elite, is actually the key to building rapport with the masses. Why? Because that is precisely how the masses talk.
Even if they don’t talk the same way, the burgeoning middle class and even the newly rich can relate to Duterte’s curse-laden speeches. Most of them are just one or two generations removed from poverty, so Duterte’s speech reminds them of the way a loved one talks. That’s what I felt when I first heard him because he speaks totally like “Tatang Doro,” my favorite grandfather. (Bless his soul.)
Meanwhile, opposition poster girl Vice President Leni Robredo has a long track record of blurting out tautological sound bites in her signature awkward Tagalog, while the rest of the opposition insult Duterte supporters – the “DDS” – every chance they get. How can Juan relate to them if they continue insulting him?
ESTEEM: Most Duterte supporters see his foreign policy as a promotion of self-reliance and a rejection of the idea of continued subservience to a foreign power. There may be some issues as regards his sometimes overly pro-China policy, but his continued rebuke of our former colonial masters tells the masses that “The Filipino can do it.” I’m not saying his moves against the US is a good thing. But in as far as encouraging Filipinos’ self-esteem, it is.
Leading opposition figures, perhaps due to their chronic failure at amassing local support, did the total opposite. For the past three years, they’ve been openly encouraging foreign powers and institutions to meddle in the country’s domestic affairs. How can that encourage a regular Filipino to gain self-esteem?
SELF-ACTUALIZATION: Self-actualization is the fulfillment of one’s talents and potentials. This happens only when the streets are safe enough to walk on (less crime, less drugs), the government doesn’t get in the way (less corruption, more safety nets), and more opportunities exist (better transportation, free college tuition, decentralization of economic growth).
As mentioned previously, the opposition’s complaints about EJKs is a self-actualization issue, but it belongs to a higher plane. For one, completing one’s education college and getting a job are far more visceral to the average Filipino than the abstract concept of human rights. Defending human rights is important, but for an average Filipino who’s uncertain of his own future, the human rights of those who he sees as criminals or delinquents won’t be his first priority.
To cut a long story short, many voters perceive Duterte’s programs as sufficiently responsive to their five fundamental interests, or at least more responsive compared to what the opposition appears to offer. While some camps may argue that the administration, in reality, failed in one or more of the supposed successes I listed above, please be reminded that politics is a game of perception, not of reality.
With that said, I find it really odd that the opposition chose Vice President Leni Robredo to run for 2022 because she does not offer anything significantly new to the table.
To be human is to be discontented, and discontent can be fixed by change. But how can change happen if a candidate offers nothing new?
In more than a few occasions, she even blatantly extolled the virtues of the much-reviled “dilaw” administration of President Noynoy Aquino. Robredo basically tells the people she wishes to bring the dilaw brand of governance back into the mainstream, and we all know how the public regards the term “dilaw” today.
Is #Robredo2022 a brazen display of the opposition’s incorrigible delusions, or is it the opposition’s way of throwing in the towel? Does the opposition seriously think that she has at shot at winning 2022, or they’ll just make her run because they know they’re not going to win anyway?
I do not wish to belittle Filipinos who belong to the opposition, but I simply don’t understand why they still can’t figure out why surveys show that they comprise no more than 10% of the population, despite their claims that they’re the more educated bloc.
Are they more concerned with convincing themselves that they’re doing the right thing than actually gaining political support? That they insist on doing the same thing over and over because it helps them sleep at night, only to wake up the next day and face their nightmare called the “Duterte presidency”?
At the rate things are going, the 2022 presidential election will be a battle between two Duterte-aligned aspirants, for the simple reason that Robredo has no chance of winning.
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