1st of a series
HONOLULU (MindaNews / 11 December) — A search under the title “President Rodrigo Duterte” yielded 15,798 citations, making Duterte the third most studied president of the Philippines after Gloria Arroyo (22,229 entries) and Ferdinand Marcos (18,135), just slightly ahead of President Joseph Estrada (15,377). Arroyo and Marcos have more citations because they ruled beyond their official tenure. The rest of the Presidents lagged far behind: Corazon Aquino (9,237), her son Benigno (5,519), and Fidel V. Ramos (3,836). When I broke this down, I have – so far – listed down eight books (including the strange one by a certain Ryuho Okawa titled Samurai President of the Philippines: Spiritual Interview with the Guardian Spirit of Rodrigo Duterte), two book chapters, one dissertation, 103 journal essays, four films, and a conference presentation on Duterte.
There was sufficient reason to merit the term “Duterte Studies Industry” (or DSI, the acronym here inspired by how social media describe Duterte’s following, Diehard Duterte Supporters or DDS). I then began to look at some of these works and immediately noticed how the majority showed no interest in Duterte’s local beginnings; very few cited local sources that could help us understand better his unusual rise to power – the only mayor to go straight to the presidency in the country’s history. But that was not all. First, none of the works from the DSI has so far come up with a convincing explanation as to why a substantial number of Filipinos remain enamored with Duterte. The nearest to a credible one would be the poll surveys that show a high correlation between his popularity and the Filipino’s sense of security. There is also a tendency in many of the DSI’s authors just to assume that Duterte’s callous language and boorish, brutal behavior were unprecedented. There are, of course, Duterte analysts who have a more nuanced view like the sociologist Jowel Canuday, political scientist Soledad Iglesias, and historian Alfred W. McCoy – but they remain a pitiful minority. I continued to feel that there was something missing
Let me start with the June 4th, 2016 “thanksgiving” speech of President-elect Duterte to his supporters at Davao City’s Crocodile Park, a wildlife park that was perhaps apt for the occasion. About 28:18 minutes into the YouTube video of his rambling victory speech at Davao City’s Crocodile Park, newly-elected President Rodrigo Duterte uttered these remarks.
“Naa pay usa ka reporter ngari DotDot, ikaw pay ngil-ad.
Nangutana ug, ‘How is your health?
Ingon nako, ‘I’m fine, I’m good.’
Sagot pa naman sa ako, putang ina,
‘Saan yong medical report mo?’
Eh di giingnan nako, ayaw na lang…ako, himatyon.
Pag-gawas ako’y kontrabida.
Maayo ba na ana-on nimo ang tawo?
Ug ingnon ta ka ‘kumusta and kondisyon sa bisong sa imong asawa, dawbi?
Unsa man ang iyang…naay vaginitis o wa, kay baho ra ba na!’
Eh….ganoon eh. Binastos man ko…
Kapila na gud sa eleksyon gipangutana ko, kaming Roxas.
Miabot pa mig sinagpaay
Unya ingon siya nga medical report.
Ayaw na lang, maghubo na lang ta, padak-anay tag otin, gusto ka?
Gamay man tug otin, kay igwat mag lubot. Bayot.
If you watched people’s reaction closely when Duterte mentioned the word “bisong,” which is the Visayan slang for vagina, and the smallness of rival presidential candidate Manuel Roxas’ penis, you will notice the blank looks among many of those on the stage. Still, you hear howls of laughter among the audience (including the women).
And for a moment, I, too, found myself laughing along with the crowd. It took me a few minutes to realize that I had heard these kinds of histrionics before, and they did not come from politicians. I’d heard similar words and phrases coming out of the mouths of some of my God-fearing aunts and their friends while growing up in the northern Mindanao town of Ozamiz. My lovely aunts would be at their most foul-mouthed and issue outrageous statements, especially when confronting wayward boyfriends or husbands. They would regale us with the dirtiest of lyrics, especially when inebriated during wakes or family reunions.
While remembering all this, I realized how symbolic Duterte’s speech was of this disconnect between the Duterte Studies Industry’s attempt to examine his political resilience and his local context. In a broader historical setting, however, Digong’s vulgarity and viciousness are not new in Philippine politics. It is the norm. And we can go as far back as the Father of the Republic, Commonwealth President Manuel L. Quezon (to be continued)
[MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. Patricio N. Abinales, an Ozamiznon, teaches at the University of Hawaii-Manoa. He studies the four-legged rat (a pestilence that brought famine in many parts of postwar Mindanao) and the two-legged rat (the politico)]