"How did he do it?"
In the history of this country (the Republic was born on June 12, 1898), no president has accumulated more power and influence than Rodrigo Roa Duterte.
In the elections of May 13, 2019, the parties and coalitions allied with President Duterte dominated the elections, from the first to the fourth candidate—meaning, the winners plus the next three nearest candidates they defeated.
Thus, in the race for 12 Senate seats, Duterte’s PDP-Laban party captured, on paper, only four slots—No. 3 Bong Go, No. 5 Bato de la Rosa, No. 9 Francis Tolentino, and No. 11 Koko Pimentel. The second biggest party, Nacionalista Party, bagged three seats—No. 1 Cynthia Villar, No. 4 Pia Cayetano, and No. 8 Imee Marcos.
The Nationalist People’s Coalition won one seat, No. 7 Lito Lapid and one borderline performance No. 13 JV Ejercito. The LDP has one, No. 6 Sonny Angara; Jojo Binay’s UNA has one, No. 12 Nancy Binay. The lone independent winner is Grace Poe, No. 2. The 12 winners have one common denominator—they are, unquestionably, allies of Duterte, diehards and softhards.
The Liberal Party should be the opposition party, being the dominant party beaten by Duterte’s PDP-Laban in the 2016 presidential elections. But the LP’s standard bearer, returning Senator Mar Roxas, second in the 2016 presidential fight, is languishing in No. 16. The landed scion of Cubao and Capiz has only 9.734-million votes, 4.6-million votes behind Nancy Binay’s winning 14.343-million votes.
At 12 out of 12, Duterte’s allies have made a 100-percent sweep of the Senate race. Assuming Grace Poe is indeed independent, 11 of 12 is still a 92 percent—or massive victory.
No other Philippine president had done as well as Duterte in a mid-term election. Not even the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, with all his martial law and one-man legislative powers, could match it.
The same sweeping victory by Duterte’s allies was demonstrated in the congressional races, the provincial governor and city and town mayor fights, and in the struggle for local legislative councils of provinces, cities and towns—92 percent or higher.
A cursory survey of major electoral constituencies (the biggest provinces and cities) shows the LP captured only 5 percent of elective positions at stake. About 70 percent were won by parties allied with Duterte—35 percent by PDP-Laban, 14 percent by NP, 10 percent by NPC, and 10 percent by NUP. The rest were won by small parties pretending to be independent but which have no choice but align themselves with the Boss. Majority of mayors listed in the Narco List of Duterte won. Having won, they are not expected to tangle with Duterte for fear for dear life or political future.
In one stroke, the one-time prosecutor of nine years and city mayor of 23 years has unified the archipelago of 7,641 islands and more than 100 tribes.
With enormous political capital and a job satisfaction rating of 79 percent, Duterte is today the Filipinos’ unrivalled kingpin of kingpins, a monarch without a crown, the Pope of the Philippine Vatican of politics. He is our MacArthur, Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan rolled into one persona. He now commands an empire with 107-million inhabitants, the 12th largest consumer market on earth, the second longest coastline in the world, an economy that is 34th largest in nominal GDP, and with a GDP, in purchasing power parity of a whopping $1.98 trillion.
Duterte, 74, has assembled enormous and unprecedented power without—as the dictator Marcos did—declaring martial law nationwide, without padlocking Congress, without firing all the Supreme Court justices, without sending en masse the notable opposition leaders to jail, without closing down feisty newspapers and tv stations, without enforcing a midnight-to-dawn curfew nationwide, and all the while, challenging the power and dogmas of the entrenched Catholic Church, fighting the longest communist insurgency in the world, fighting the longest Muslim separatist insurgency in the world, and discussing in public how immense and solid his manhood was and can be in gross and boisterous language.
How did Duterte do it? One is bluff, bluster and braggadocio. Another is having up to 5,000 people killed in his anti-drugs war. Still another is by employing more generals (more than 40) in civilian posts than any president before him did.
Also, he likes sweating the small stuff that endears him to the common man and amply demonstrates his political will.
Like mandating Customs not to touch the luggage of incoming Filipino tourists, cutting red tape on driver’s licenses and passports and extending their validity, ordering the six-month cleanup of fabled Boracay beach, followed by rehab of Manila Bay, declaring war on Canada unless that friendly country repatriates back its garbage, and threatening to stop the deployment of Filipino workers to UAE unless that Gulf state stopped the execution of a Filipina worker accused of murder. And no whiff of corruption among his subalterns. In all these measures, the President got the desired effect.
History thus offers Duterte an opportunity for greatness. He can rise above his city- mayor thinking, overwhelm his barkada mentality, cut his seemingly drunken dialogues, and far from the madding crowd claw and execute a vision of greatness for his country and his people. He can embrace the Nike rule—just do it.