Filipinos are a happy, hopeful lot. That’s well known by now throughout the world, thanks to the millions of overseas workers who are our informal ambassadors everywhere.
Perhaps it’s in our genes. More likely, it comes from the leavening influence of the Church on our innate Asian spirituality. Or maybe it’s just because all that sun has gone to our heads.
Going into the new year, Social Weather Stations reports from its December quarterly survey that 96 percent of all Filipinos are hopeful—instead of fearful—about 2018. That is by far the highest score ever posted since SWS first started asking this question in 2000.
What’s also remarkable is that this rating comes back-to-back behind a virtually similar 95 percent at the beginning of 2017. Despite Marawi, the typhoons, alleged EJKs, and all the other bad news that the doomsayers gleefully like to point out—in spite of all that, our people’s hopefulness has not dimmed.
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A big beneficiary from this optimism—as well as perhaps a big reason for it—is the President. As we pointed out last week, his net satisfaction ratings improved from “good” in September to “very good” in December, especially in “balance of Luzon,” his weakest region, where he added a net 14 points.
But it isn’t just Duterte who benefited. There seems to be an upswell of positive sentiment about the rest of government, according to SWS:
Like Duterte, the Senate’s net satisfaction ratings also jumped, by 10 points, from “good” to “very good,” with Senate President Pimentel scoring a new personal high.
The House’s net ratings also improved by 10 points, with Speaker Alvarez jumping from “neutral” to “moderate” status.
Both the Supreme Court and the Cabinet gained by 6 points each.
Unfortunately for her, Chief Justice Sereno’s ratings again dropped to +6 in December, from +9 in September and +21 in June. With the majority of justices now on record as opposing her in the impeachment proceedings, it shouldn’t surprise that she’s paying for it with her increasing unpopularity.
This year, fuel and food prices may inch up partly because of additional excise taxes under tax reform. But the poor and the middle class will begin to enjoy the benefit of lower or no income taxes later in the year. Ground will start breaking for all those infrastructure projects promised by Duterte’s men.
Congress will start deliberating on a new Constitution that carries the promise, not just of federalism, but also of a much-liberalized economy that can finally catch up with the rest of the region. All in all, our people’s hopefulness looks eminently reasonable.
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Of course the critics will have something entirely different to say about this—and thankfully so. Were they to remain silent, Duterte would just be pilloried for silencing them and killing democracy.
Which is exactly what he was accused of by an obscure group in the US who style themselves the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project. This year they decided to name Duterte their “Person of the Year” as “the individual who has done the most in the world to advance organized criminal activity and corruption.”
This self-conscious attempt at satire charges that the country has become “more corrupt, more cruel, and less democratic” under Duterte. Given his popularity, you have to wonder if this criticism is actually a swipe by patronizing Westerners at the natives who don’t know any better and have to be saved from themselves.
One local leader who would hugely enjoy this kind of Western company is Senator Trillanes, the undistinguished junior officer, mutineer and coup plotter who’s made a career out of attacking a laws-based order that he barely seems to understand even if he’s responsible for crafting those same laws.
The senator is now threatened with a civil suit by two of Duterte’s relatives for linking them to a recent drug-smuggling bust. But instead of rejoicing at the opportunity to show his evidence in court, this chronic harasser of ordinary citizens in his grandstanding Senate inquiries—claims he’s being harassed!
Trillanes declaimed that “I have made it my life’s mission to make this murderous and corrupt [Duterte] clan accountable for its actions.” Well, good luck with that, Mister Caped Crusader.
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Much more restrained—and more effective—was the recent criticism of the administration by the country’s bishops, now led by Davao Archbishop Romulo Valles, who is understandably no enemy of the President.
In their latest statement, the CBCP asserted that “we wish the President success. The Church also wants the drug problem eradicated.” What they objected to is the practice of “killing suspects like chickens,” adding that “if killings are rampant, the public should express some amount of disgust.”
This is a problem that doesn’t come up only in drug-related killings. Over the week-end, a bunch of Mandaluyong cops and barangay tanods pumped 40 bullets into a van that was rushing an injured female construction worker to the hospital. She and her lover were killed on the spot, with two others seriously injured.
The response of Metro Manila’s top cop, two-star Police Director Oscar Albayalde, was swift and unforgiving: Immediate suspension of the Mandaluyong police chief and all the officers involved. It may be recalled that Albayalde was also responsible for suspending the entire Caloocan police force over the alleged EJK’s of teenagers a while back.
Unfortunately for us, any rot in the PNP organization may be so deep-rooted that it surfaces like an abscess only in tragedies like this. When it does, like any abscess, it must be thoroughly lanced so all the pus runs out, no matter how painful it may be. With the PNP poised to resume drug war duties, this is a prospect that we ought to be hopeful, not fearful, about.
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It’s already the afternoon of Dec. 31st as I’m writing this piece, and so far I haven’t heard a single firecracker go off in our San Juan neighborhood. We have the President to thank for this year’s strict ban. It’s an annual gunpowder orgy that I’d gladly give up just to spare innocent children from risk to life and limb caused by unmindful adherence to a Chinese superstition.
We also have Duterte to thank for declaring December 8, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary, as a new non-working holiday in this heavily Marian country.
If the bishops thank the President properly for this, he might even be persuaded to go along with the idea of consecrating the entire country to the Blessed Mother—as the countdown continues towards the semi-millennial anniversary of the Church in our country, and as the world heedlessly spirals downward to the nether depths.
Readers can write me at firstname.lastname@example.org.