Binibining Pilipinas

Duterte at the halfway mark: The Filipino’s gamble

Pia Ranada
Duterte at the halfway mark: The Filipino’s gamble
President Rodrigo Duterte, buoyed by a narrative of action and compassion, has recovered from 3 years worth of controversies. Will this narrative hold up until the end?


MANILA, Philippines – In a crowded gymnasium in General Santos City, Richard Tang Jr of South Cotabato donned his tribalwear to accept a long-awaited land ownership certificate from President Rodrigo Duterte himself. 

He listened to Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol say that it took Duterte’s “political will” to get various agencies to work together and issue the awards.

And so during a television interview, Tang was overjoyed. “Marami pong salamat kay Presidente Digong, Rodrigo Duterte. ‘Tay, maraming salamat kasi nabigay mo na sa amin ‘yung titulo ng lupa namin at pasalamat din kami sa pagmamahal mo sa aming mga Lumad.

(Thank you very much to President Digong, Rodrigo Duterte. Father, many thanks to you because you gave us our land titles. We also thank you for your love for us, Lumad.) 

On the other side of the world, physical therapist Kelly Dayag, from his apartment in California, said Duterte may have a foul mouth, but at least he helps poor Filipinos.

“We cannot focus on political correctness, ‘disente-disente (decency)’ which cannot put food on the table of ordinary Filipinos,” he told Rappler.

“I’d rather have a President like that, rather than ‘holier than thou’ who has stolen lots of money or is abusive and corrupt,” he continued.

This is the Philippine President, a man who has forced Filipinos to make a choice. Either you tolerate his faults and benefit from his virtues, or you coast along with the usual boring politician who’s never gotten the country anywhere.

You get rape jokes, but he’ll clean up Boracay. Your God gets called stupid, but you’ve got free college education for your kids.

It’s a choice some Filipinos have had no problem making. Others have had to make difficult compromises, necessitating an internal shift in values and then an external commitment that has led to unfriended friends and heated family arguments. (LISTEN: PODCASTS: Duterte, ruler of a divided nation) 

Voting Duterte, for many, was a gamble and in the midway point of his presidency, June 30, 2019, Filipinos are now assessing if they made the right bet.

Popularity despite odds

The “iron-fisted” Davao City mayor of 2016 won on the strength of 16.6 million votes – 39% of all votes cast in a 5-way race.

Nearly halfway into his presidency, 79% of Filipinos, never mind just the voting population, declared satisfaction with his leadership, according to a Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey in March. 

Duterte has kept his honeymoon period going for two years and 3 quarters of a year. SWS defines a president’s honeymoon period as a time when he or she is able to maintain a net satisfaction rating of at least +30, the minimum rating for a grade of “good.”

His March net satisfaction rating was +66, which, along with his June 2017 rating of the same number, is his highest so far.