What does our very own Digong Duterte have to do with Brexit, the recent decision of the people of the United Kingdom, to leave the European Community? A lot, I think.
I watched President-elect Rodrigo Duterte deliver his hour-long, profanity-laced valedictory to his original constituents, the people of Davao City, yesterday. And I could not help but conclude that while the people may not always be right, their will becomes law in a democratic society if enough of them want something badly enough.
It’s the same with Brexit. When the people of the UK shocked their so-called betters by deciding to leave the European community, the pound took a beating and markets tumbled—but there is simply no denying or reversing the will of the people.
Elites everywhere, including those in the media (who are mostly in the elite’s employ), have always made it their business to tell the rest of us what we should think, say and do. And because of the pervasiveness of the influence of the ruling classes and the silence of majority who do not belong to them, elites sometimes are able to convince themselves of the inevitability of their own belief systems.
But democratic politics is the great leveler of economic classes. The noise emanating from the elite has time and again been proven to be a false indicator of the sentiments of the majority.
What happened in the UK last week already took place last May 9 in the Philippines. And it will happen again, as long as people are allowed to chart their own destiny, as opposed to following the dictates of the status quo-loving elites.
Conventional political wisdom, for instance, held that someone like Duterte was, at best, a local phenomenon that would not travel well outside of Davao City. The job of the president of the republic required someone schooled in the politics of Manila, where the seat of government and the national pulse beats it loudest and truest, it said.
But the “Remain” voters, it must be noted, were also concentrated in the London area. What City politicians and businessmen thought was the will of the voters was actually just the economic elites talking to themselves, an incestuous clamor to stay in the European Union that did not reverberate in an English countryside scared to death of an incoming wave of immigrants and of losing their jobs and safety nets.
In the same manner that UK pollsters thought that the Brexit call would be defeated in a close contest were proven wrong, Manila-based politicians and their highly-paid advisers did not figure on the rest of the country voting in droves for someone who had next to no connections with politics in the nation’s capital. Digong Duterte represented the rest of the country against the elites who have ruled us for so long—and up to now, the political and economic elites in Manila still cannot get over the loss.
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There is, of course, no better representative of the Manila-based political and economic elites than the outgoing president, Noynoy Aquino. Aquino was the offspring of the old-rich haciendero class of landowners and generations of prominent national politicians, including a president, and he was always proud of his pedigree.
But Aquino’s faux folksy glibness was eventually betrayed by his uncaring attitude and action when it came to stuff that really mattered to ordinary Filipinos, unmasking him as one of “them.” And after Aquino, during the last half of his term, was exposed as just another elitist do-nothing place-holder in a position that could actually do good for the majority, his fate—and the fate of his anointed—was practically sealed.
When Aquino picked yet another member of the ruling class, Mar Roxas, to be his champion in the elections last month, the people decided they wanted someone else. First, they toyed with the idea of having Jejomar Binay replace the Feckless One, then they discovered Grace Poe; neither really fit the bill, until Rodrigo Duterte came along and inflamed the populace.
Here was a man almost everyone could relate to, with his plaid shirts and his vulgar, saksak-sinagol trilingualism. Here was a man who felt as they did about crime, corruption and every other problem that they came face-to-face with on a daily basis, someone who was one of them.
The people had found a politician who has always kept in touch with the people and who has unerringly told them what they wanted to hear and given them what they wanted. And now, in a couple of days, Duterte is taking his foul-mouthed act out of Davao and onto the nationwide stage, becoming mayor of the adoring masses of the entire country who voted him into the presidency.
No one knows if Duterte will bring this country to a corruption- and crime-free Promised Land like he has always said he would. At this point, as with Brexit, what we only know is that the people have chosen uncertainly—and hope for change—over business and politics as usual.
The other thing is that, in both elections, the people have had enough of the elites who always seem to know what’s best for them, even if they never seem to deliver anything except what’s best for the elites themselves. And they did so all by themselves, for good or for ill.