COTABATO CITY (MindaNews/06 January) — When you live in a household where most members are movie buffs and have a term of endearment for practically anything, you must have taken name-calling and labeling to the next level.
Ever since that willful mayor from Davao City built a no-nonsense reputation, Raj called him Friday Du30. Like the movie, Duterte must have sown horror in the hearts of those who broke the law. (Ram on the other hand called that pockmarked-mask movie character “Mushroom”. Let’s see if there’s is some interesting association there),
Fast forward several years. The country’s political landscape changed when the man who horrified criminals ran for president. So horrifying was he that even those who are not criminals were so blinded with fear they did not hear! And because he does not fit the traditional mould, his supporters are called DuterTards, a word play around “retarded” aka dimwits, halfwits, nincompoops. (There’s always google to fill in what’s left in the thesaurus). Someone defined a DuterTard to be a person who says he will vote for Duterte because he hears everybody else saying so. Herd behavior kumbaga. Sunod-sunod lang sa uso. Another offered the label DuterTista — one who supports the candidacy of Duterte through thick or thin, come hell or high water, sa hirap at ginhawa.
Whatever the definition, the man has caught the public’s attention.
Conversations over dinner in the Gulo Household is never complete without Duterte as the topic in the last couple of years or so. While I abhor personality-based politics and Jun ever hopeless about Philippine elections, Raj and Ram (and even Josh, their cousin) kept sharing posts and articles about the man on our FB accounts; sometimes mentioning our names as a heads up for those they cannot catch up sharing. (I figured their generation must be trying to associate themselves with the diminishing number of men-leaders who protect the weak and the oppressed).
“Ninja DuTurtle: that’s him. Ninja DuTurtles: that’s him and us,” declares Raj.
(Bulb lights). Indeed, don’t ninja turtles protect their city from criminals?
The new year is just a few days old and in a few months elections will be held. Those who are confident say: DuTurtle would win in 2016. Those who are confident with a heart say: if elections were held this moment and 2016, DuTurtle would still win. And because criminals do not want a non-trapo like DuTurtle, high chance they would do everything to cheat him.
Well, many things have been said about him. Here’s my layperson aka ordinary citizen’s assessment of my favorite DuTurtle. There may be more but we can start with these:
Change Is Here
- Duterte is anything but conventional. He defies stereotypes. He wears the same type of shirts. He is not epal. He shuns awards. You don’t see his face and name splashed on every billboard announcing this is where your taxes go; or aping this and that slogan. (Funny how 2016 is called The Year of the Monkey: politicians have aped each other’s strategies without really offering anything new). If ever you see Duterte in the news, it’s rarely partying, socializing, this launching or that inauguration, the works. That’s a change from and a total opposite of the usual strategy of politicians who hire publicists and trainers on how to project a polished image to the public, spending taxpayers’ money on airtime, newspaper space and tarpaulins.
- Duterte does not smooth-talk his way just to get good press. When he gets angry at kidnappers, drug pushers, unruly taxi driver/operators etc, he is not bothered if media catches him in his element oncam or on audio recordings. Many politicians wouldn’t dare snap at media people or in the presence of media people lest they would suffer unilateral warfare of loose talk. Duterte talks the way he does in a language understood by criminals and lawbreakers but grates the senses of those who have not fought the underworld toe-to-toe eyeball-to-eyeball. And because Davao media sees that his work in making a city rise from a cesspool of crime is more important than the way he speaks, they report on relevant issues that affect the collective good rather than on his manners or his personal life. In short, don’t ask Duterte stupid questions or you will get stupid answers. He even helped you understand his quirks: “If it sounds ridiculous, it must be a joke!” I think if he is putting his tongue on his cheek he is testing your wits. Bantayi ba. And if you still take his jokes and his sarcasm literally, your problem must have something to do with transcending the ego.
- Duterte does not come from a landed clan. Neither did he enrich himself in office. In short, he does not have private money nor money from taxpayers — to fund a presidential campaign.
Bumalik Ang Piso
In the early 2000s a taxi driver gave me change for my fare. I didn’t want to take it but he insisted because “mao’y sulti ni Mayor.” Interesting. According to him, Digong said that they taxi drivers are the first faces of Davao that a visitor will see. How they treat their passengers will reflect the character of the city. Makes sense, huh?
(I think calling their mayor just “Digong” is also very endearing; the way some people also call Pope Francis “Lolo Kiko”. It gives one the feeling that this person is one of you or one among you).
Since then it became public knowledge that Davao taxi drivers give back fare change to the last peso. Lately though I just tell the driver how much change I want back as a token of gratitude to their good manners. It feels good to be generous when you are not extorted.
While many people were still convincing him to run, Duterte shared his predicament of having no money to oil a full-blown campaign. What’s happening now is that people are using their own money and resources to make wrist ballers / wrist bands, tshirts, caps; to have tarpaulins printed; wood scraps to make billboards — all bearing Duterte’s name. Musicians and artists composed songs, held concerts; netizens produced their own videos and uploaded it on youtube. The graphically endowed made memes of notable Duterte quotes — without having Duterte pay them for it. FB pages and blogs are dedicated to the good that he had done for the people of Davao over the years. I wonder how much these would all cost if given monetary equivalent.
I say that the good energies that came with the last peso of taxi fare change were returned back to Duterte exponentially. Other politicians can learn from this lesson on how to fund a campaign without really trying.
Protecting their ranks
Taxi drivers seem to be a good barometer of life that we don’t see on mainstream media. One time Kuyang Taxi Driver told me they just mauled a fellow driver the night before.
“Kay ngano man pud?” I ask.
“Naa man gu’y ni-text Ma’am nga iyang hut-hotan ang pasahero (Someone texted that he wanted to fleece a passenger),” he answered.
“Gihulat lang namo siya mogarahe Maam unya kaming mga drayber tagsa-tagsa mi ka sumbag niya (We just waited for him to return the taxi after his shift and all of us who were there gave him a punch each.”
“Nah, wa sya mo balos? (Didn’t he fight back?)”
“Di man sya kabalos Maam kay daghan man mi (He can’t fight back because there were many of us).”
“Di kaha mo adto dumtan? (Don’t you think he will make a revenge?)”
“Di to modumot Maam kay kabalo man sya nga sad-an sya (He won’t because he knew he committed something bad).
Wow. Gives credence to the saying “The pace of the leader determines the speed of the pack” or something like that. Self-correction and protecting one’s ranks are a hallmark of law and order.
The new year is just barely a week old and I am grateful that Manny Pinol on his FB page provided an advice of brotherly correction not to intimidate Duterte non-believers. Even that has to change. Positive campaigning is the change.
Mudslinging has become a conventional thus very boring, thing. You cannot blame a person’s lack of knowledge for being so sure of the wrong things about Duterte. Deepak Chopra says that people will do their best according to their level of awareness. It would really be unfair for us to keep non-believers in the dark. Factual information would beat falsehood anytime. Whatever unfounded fear non-believers had in their hearts would hopefully be assuaged. Reminding each other to be compassionate towards those who still need to know more about Duterte is a good way of protecting the ranks.
For my part, it was not difficult to see the benchmarks, the progress on how Duterte transformed Davao City. Through the years, I have always used him as a reference to question myself on theories/ideas I encountered on peacebuilding, governance, accountability, conflict resolution, law enforcement — all those lofty concepts. Nine out of ten he still defies conventional beliefs of being prim and proper, using peaceful language, living a righteous life, having monotheistic spirituality, etc when faced with the magnitude of work Davao had then.
By now, any self-respecting netizen would have already been able to detect how paid hacks and fictitious accounts look like on Facebook or Twitter (I just learned they are also called Trolls); not unlike the press releases of falsehoods and half-truths PR Agencies of yore used to destroy an opponent. Rather than sharing nonsense, there are a lot of credible sites that can multiply understanding rather than confusion.
You may find these useful too: On Facebook I follow Davao Dailynews Service, Peter Tiu Lavina, Inday Sara Duterte, Thinking Pinoy, and Carmen Navarro Pedrosa. And because of Duterte I saw more substance and objective reporting on CNN Philippines, Rappler and InterAksyon compared to the two TV giants who are always at loggerheads with each other as to who dishes out more cut-and-dried no-brainers on primetime.
Gikan Sa Masa Para Sa Masa on YouTube is the nearest you can get to his answers to questions; compared to articles, interpretations and opinions written about what he said. Searching Duterte on YouTube also generates plenty of material, not to mention the city’s official web page.
I really do not have an idea how Ninja Turtles ended; but win or lose, I’m sure Digong DuTurtle would be a good case study on effective governance for years to come.
[MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. Aveen Acuña-Gulo posts herself on Facebook as a Monumental Operations Manager (MOM). She is a Bukidnon-born Cebuano mother of three (3) Maguindanao-Ilonggo-Cotabateño children; who will always be a child at heart even if she is a hundred years old.
She wrote a column “The Voice” for the Mindanao Cross from 1991-2006.
She likes to challenge stereotypes. “Don’t worry about my opinions. It won’t make a dent to the conventional,” she says.]