Aquino on Duterte's win: 'Very masterful way of campaigning'

MANILA, Philippines – President-elect Rodrigo Duterte’s campaign was simply “better” than that of his rivals in the May 2016 polls.

This was the assessment of outgoing President Benigno Aquino III  when asked to comment on the victory of the Davao City mayor in the presidential elections.

“Well again, the differentiation. ‘I am different.’ Very masterful way of campaigning. Am I running? Am I not running? And all the attendant [things]. We really have to hand it to him; them,” Aquino said in an interview with Rappler CEO Maria Ressa on Tuesday, June 7.

In 2015, Duterte flip-flopped several times on his decision not to run. The mayor did not file his certificate of candidacy for president in October 2015, only to file for a substitution two months later.

“They really mounted that better campaigning – that was the right tone, right messaging, right time,” he said.

During the homestretch of the campaign, no less than Aquino himself asked for an anti-Duterte alliance among the mayor's rivals.

“Towards the end, I was prevailed upon to try again by quarters who are not affiliated to any of our political parties. I tried again," the President recounted.

He added: "There's another one, religious, 'Please lang subukan mo na baka sakali (Please just try. Who knows, it might work).' This was the last week of the campaign. I replied: 'I dont think everybody's predisposed to give way.' Baka naman (But maybe) these persons were sent by God to deliver a message. I tried again. Obviously, it failed. But at least we maintained communication."

People’s anger?

Duterte has relied heavily on social media to mobilize people online and on the ground. 

But Aquino, when asked on the anger against the administration seemingly evident online, refused to believe that the sentiments are “representative.”

“Can I ask a question? How confident are you that what you see on social media is representative as opposed to the concept of trolls that everybody keeps talking about these days?” the President asked.

Aquino added, “Organized volunteers would not have that much number of people." He cited instances when favorable posts for him were suddenly flooded with criticisms, done in an apparent organized manner.

For the division not to worsen, Aquino said leaders, regardless of sectors “should ensure that fissures don’t really open up.”

The President maintained the need for a “responsible” and “civil dialogue” to heal the country.

“Perhaps we should remember that if we want to get to an agreement with anything, it has to be responsible dialogue and civil dialogue. We have tried to encourage whole spectrum of opinions regardless where it came from. I think records will bear me out that we keep on reaching out to even our vociferous critics. Whether it was successful or not, we attempted several times,” Aquino said.

Tight-lipped

Meanwhile, Aquino refused to answer most other questions on Duterte, especially on anything that may appear as unsolicited advice. He said he has no knowledge on what the incoming president will do in the future.

When asked about criticisms regarding possible conflict of interest issues on Duterte's choice of Las Piñas Representative Mark Villar as public works secretary, Aquino said, "Can I leave those questions to the Commission on Appointments which is their function?"

At one point, when asked if he has fears that the supposed gains of his administration would be reversed by the next government, Aquino only said, "That’s too speculative." – Rappler.com

Camille Elemia

Camille Elemia is Rappler's lead reporter for media, disinformation, and democracy. She won an ILO award in 2017. She received the prestigious Fulbright-Hubert Humphrey fellowship in 2019, allowing her to further study media and politics in the US. Email camille.elemia@rappler.com

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