President Rodrigo Roa Duterte, based on nationwide surveys, is by far the most popular president in the post-Marcos era. Even if some in the media say that his trust rating has already slipped since he was installed in power, it can’t be denied that Duterte’s numbers are high enough to make critics hesitate while reassuring allies, chronic turncoats included, that their president will not be toppled by impeachment or through people’s uprising.
Duterte’s popularity makes for a promising presidency, as this popularity gives the President high political capital to push for his desired reforms with little opposition. He is capable of bringing forth real progress and meaningful change for the Philippines with help and support from the citizenry. However, are you giving him right kind of support?
Your blind support, overzealous attacks against critics, false dichotomies, tolerance and implied support for rudeness, willingness to let the President suppress the Constitution, and complicity to a debased level of discourse, are some of the ways you have been wrongly supporting the President. You may have unintentionally been holding President Duterte back while thinking that you are merely expressing your support or trying to help him out.
If you are doing any of these things, then you are most likely not doing the President a favor. You are most likely not helping him succeed.
- Blindly defending him and overzealously attacking critics
President Duterte is not infallible. Even he and his spokespersons agree with this. Refusing to call him out for his obvious mistakes and lapses in judgment is not a productive way of supporting him. His pro-China stand and persistent attacks against the US and other traditional allies, for instance, are indefensible. There’s no way you can defend him when his Cabinet members themselves contradict him. Foreign Affairs Secretary Yasay, in many instances, issued statements that did not coincide with Duterte’s statements. Budget Secretary Diokno contradicted the president on his statement about the US manipulating the peso. Even Defense Secretary Lorenzana had to refute Duterte’s statements regarding the country’s military alliance with the US.
Realize how embarrassing it is for the President to be contradicted by his own cabinet secretaries. If he gets used to saying anything he wants because his supporters readily defend him, he will not bother trying to be mindful of the things he says. His words affect the country’s reputation and foreign relations. We are not North Korea where supporters submit to their “Dear Leader” in ridiculous ways, to the astonishment of foreign observers. We also need to maintain good relations with other countries. Blind support does not help.
Similarly, it does not help savagely attacking those who express criticisms against the president, especially the ones who mean well. It’s sad to learn that avid Duterte supporter ex-President Ramos is now being attacked by Duterte supporters after he boldly expressed his assessment of the president’s first 100 days in power. Ramos is now the subject of memes on social media, with one particularly assailing him for his role on the privatization of the National Steel Corporation.
- Sowing disinformation and misinformation
No seemingly Duterte supporter would want to associate the President with lies, fabrications, deceit, and misleading articles online. So why should you create or promote Facebook accounts/pages, Twitter accounts, and other social media accounts that spread misinformation and disinformation in an attempt to glorify the President or to assail critics?
Misinformation (unwitting propagation of untruths/half-truths) and disinformation (spreading lies/falsities/fabrications to deceive) harm the President because they establish a severely shaky foundation for merit, accomplishment, gravitas, and success. Once supporters, nonpartisan observers, or the so-called silent majority discover or realize the lies, half-truths, and untruths, the President’s achievements and reputation are likely to suffer. Even the President’s honest-to-goodness successes can be tainted by these lies and deceit.
- Dividing the country, espousing false dichotomies
If you are not with us, you are against us: this idea is simply unhelpful. Those who criticize or disapprove of certain actions of the President are not automatically anti-Duterte. Those who don’t do the fist salute don’t automatically belong to the group that sports the Liberal Party’s L hand sign. Not bannering Duterte’s colors does not automatically make one yellow. Don’t think that there are only pro and anti Duterte Filipinos.
Every time Duterte supporters attack critics and defend the President whenever he attacks prominent international personalities, organizations, and countries in general, the anti-Duterte sentiment grows. Maybe the effects are not significantly felt yet but without a doubt, animosity will build up if the President persists in his abrasive ways and supporters. It creates more opposition, converting supporters into antagonists.
Instead of dividing the country, try advocating for the President calmy. In rational and logical terms, try presenting counterarguments to criticisms, if possible. If the criticisms make sense, don’t try to defend the President. If people refuse to accept your arguments, don’t push your points any further.
A highly popular President Duterte presents a golden opportunity for real progress and beneficial change. Don’t upset this opportunity by gradually creating adversaries out of those who refuse to become fanatics. The President does not need fans or solid supporters. He only needs citizens who follow the law and do their part to help the country move forward.
4. Tolerating and encouraging his unrefined ways
”She should enjoy her right to free expression.” (Duterte to Agot Isidro, the actress who called him psychopath)
“She is just doing her job.” (Duterte to The Leila De Lima)
Would you believe that the statements above were actually said by President Duterte? Yes, he can sound and act presidential so why are his supporters not encouraging him to act like this instead of fueling his natural tendency to curse and issue abrasive statements? Seriously, why are Duterte supporters even applauding the President when he curses?
Do a Google search using the keywords “foul mouthed leaders” and you will see search results that are mostly pointing to articles about President Duterte. Even CNN’s so-called top 16 foul-mouthed politicians pale in comparison.
Help President Duterte avoid the infamy of becoming the epitome of a foul-mouthed, crass politician by asking him to tone down the cursing and be more mindful of the consequences of his every utterance.
5. Supporting the suppression of constitutional rights and checks and balances in government
Help the President avoid entertaining adventurous ideas like dismissing the Constitution or selectively applying provisions of the fundamental law of the land. Don’t be a Dick… Gordon, who wants to give the President the power to suspend the writ of habeas corpus. Help the President stay true to his oath as president of the Republic of the Philippines.
Prodding him to challenge constitutional bounds like declaring a revolutionary government, abolishing government institutions, or surrendering the country’s territories in exchange for economic packages is not going to help him become a successful president. Similarly, encouraging him to disrespect constitutional institutions and processes because they appear to be hindering his goals as president, will only invite more adversarial reactions.
On the other hand, the recent senate hearings on the granting of emergency powers to the President appear to be a good example of why you are unlikely helping President Duterte by hastily supporting efforts to elude checks and balances in government. The emergency powers being sought by the Duterte administration are aimed at addressing the country’s traffic problems by expediting processes, mainly by essentially suspending checks and balances to favor faster actions and results. However, it appears the government does not actually have concrete plans yet, especially when it comes to using the emergency powers. If you are one of those who have been rushing Congress to grant the President emergency powers, you would have had given critics more reasons to criticize because apparently, nothing much could have been done even if emergency powers were granted. Worse, the emergency powers could have just been abused or misused by the President’s men.
6. Degrading the level of discourse, resorting to cursing or inappropriate language
When you hear the cuss “p*tang-*na” nowadays, it’s difficult not to associate it with President Duterte. He arguably made it more popular. His supporters have been consistently using it to attack critics while critics appear to have also resorted to using it in their frustration or for whatever reason. Just recently, politicos at the Lower House demonstrated how low they could get, as congressmen Pichay and Barbers cussed at each other and nearly broke into a brawl while discussing the early stages of proposing charter change. Netizens’ reaction: how presidential!
If you are one discerning Duterte supporter, you should already know that cussing never results in productive arguments. Cussing never boosts the credibility of an assertion. Even the supposedly fluent and articulate new envoy to the UN, Teddy Boy Locsin, has demonstrated several times on Twitter how cussing fails to make for compelling arguments. Instead, cussing usually sinks credibility, significantly takes away the emphasis from the point being raised, and even invites criticism and condemnation.
7. Supporting the idea of cutting ties with the US and other traditional allies in favor of China
Arguably, severing ties with the US to build a good relationship with China is one of the most obtuse ideas a Filipino leader could possibly think of. Those who agree to this idea are either blind followers or completely out of touch with reality. There’s nothing wrong in trying to build a warm relationship with the Chinese but explicitly condemning the United States and other traditional Philippine allies while praising China does not result in anything productive. Aside from offending the US, doing this does not actually guarantee meaningful benefits from China.
Do you seriously think China will stop claiming our territories and EEZs just because President Duterte decides to be inimical to the Americans? Do you seriously think that China does not know that the Filipino population is overwhelmingly pro-US? Filipinos are even more pro-US than the Americans themselves. Do you really think China believes that a pro-China President Duterte is enough to change the Filipino affinity to the Americans?
While it can’t be said that US and other Western investments in the country will immediately be withdrawn once the Philippines becomes largely pro-Chinese, it’s also important to realize that the Chinese are very unlikely to match what the West has already invested in the country. Several investigative stories have already been run by different international media organizations regarding the degrading economy of China.
China may still be able to provide loans to fund various infrastructure projects in the Philippines but the outlook for economic benefits (exports to China in particular) is rather dim. Bear in mind that you are also at fault if the Philippine economy falls because you made the President believe that he’s perfectly right in bringing the country closer to China while offensively rejecting the West.
8. Playing along with the government’s propaganda and spinning (specifically regarding the President’s unguarded comments, pronouncements, and speeches)
Why do you have to help propagate the government’s propaganda when there are already enough people in government paid to do it? Seriously, if you are one of those who quickly come to the aid of the President’s spokespersons and other Duterte cabinet secretaries, it’s high time you rethink your actions.
By willingly becoming a part of the government’s massive propaganda machine to “positively interpret” or spin the President’s words, you are helping the government sanitize President Duterte’s unpleasant and abrasive quips and declarations. This is not good because you are helping the government avoid the problem instead of addressing it head on. Let’s all learn to admit it. Right now, President Duterte’s biggest problem is his uncontrollable mouth. His rhetoric is not only harming himself but also the country’s image. He needs to do something about it, and he needs your help to accept that his unrefined behavior is already unacceptable.
9. Credit grabbing
Have you seen the posters/streamers claiming the C5 Extension Road to be “an initiative of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte and DPWH Secretary Mark Villar?” Curiously, no major media organization covered this blatant credit grabbing. It made some noise on social media but it quickly dissipated.
According to a representative of Secretary Villar, the posters/streamers were not authorized by the DPWH Secretary or President Duterte, and were promptly taken down. Supposedly, it was the contractor who printed them “without any permission.” The contractor did not know it was a project under the previous administration? Really?
Regardless, the point here is that no decent Duterte supporter should resort to credit grabbing as it only harms the president. It’s similar to diehard Duterte supporter Mocha Uson’s intentional or unwitting credit grabbing over the improvements in NAIA Terminal 1, which was spread by several pro-Duterte blogs and Facebook pages.
10. Not wanting him to change (for the better), from mayor to president
Admit it, a foul-mouthed Duterte who unreasonably attacks traditional allies while acting suspiciously genial with the Chinese is remotely the image of an internationally respectable president. He needs to abandon his mayor mentality and start acting like a president.
He can’t always curse in public and assail critics, including international figures, without expecting adverse consequences. He can’t keep offending allies and expect things to go his way. He can’t just oversimplify international relations by equating good alliance to the building of rehabilitation centers. He can’t go around demonstrating his inexperience or lack of knowledge in international matters, like how he contested the validity of EDCA because of the lack of ex-President Aquino’s signature, when in fact international agreements are not actually being signed by presidents. Accepting President Duterte’s proud declaration that he uses insults as his best defense against critics is completely unwise. Moreover, he needs to stop making it appear that the world underestimate his intellect like how he recently said that the US, UN, and EU cannot be brighter than him. Nobody ever said he’s intellectually challenged.
Not wanting President Duterte to change to improve the way he deals with critics and the way he performs as president of the country is doing a big disservice not only to the country but also to yourself. Don’t you wish President Duterte would one day emerge as one of the most remarkable presidents the world has seen because he changed, and because you helped him change with your honest and constructive criticisms?
Remember how Singapore’s Straits Times strongly disapproved of the comparison between Duterte and Lee Kuan Yew? If Singaporeans don’t want their good leader to be compared to our Duterte, perhaps we must consider that our Duterte really has to do some changing.
Criticizing and complaining don’t mean that you are wishing the President to fail. Pointing out his mistakes or misgivings is a way of helping him, especially with the kind of personality he has.
Let’s help President Duterte become a successful Filipino leader. Let’s help him drive the Philippines to success.
This post is supported by a writing grant from the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ)