Triumph of the Grievance Vote

By Krip Yuson


As election day drew near, the handwriting on the wall seemed obviously stark. And believers in reputable surveys (that includes me) could see it and read it: Rodrigo Duterte appeared poised to become the 16th Philippine President, with his numbers in both SWS and PulseAsia holding and increasing their lead over the second-placer, Grace Poe before a late mini-surge by Mar Roxas.  

The rabid faith in the Davao Mayor had cast him in Teflon. No amount of last-minute attempts to paint him blacker than he already was in the eyes of his rivals and their supporters could affect that redeemer-hero image any more. If anything, they solidified blind faith, even added to his ranks of adherents.

Mammoth attendance at his miting de avance in Rizal Park portended the inevitable. From objective accounts, it drew hundreds of thousands, dwarfing the crowds that had gathered just as loyally for his contenders’ last hurrahs on the same evening. And Duterte’s horde was reported to represent the broadest range of demographics — from macho owners of muscle cars and big bikes to passionate young people to families on the socio-economic fringe.

In the political outlier who had made all the reprehensible social moves, by way of cantankerous attitude and verbal assault, they all saw a symbol and a chance for change.

It would be a grievance vote, ballots cast in anger and protest against the status quo — now seen and vilified as the rule of the elites that while providing for economic growth had also shown time and again a lack of empathy, and worse, callous mismanagement that had everybody grumbling over urban woes such as horrible traffic, inadequate infrastructure, airport scams, late or missing license plates and drivers’ licenses — the whole caboodle of inexplicable sources of stress for a working metropolitan population.

Oh, there were gripes too outside and far away from the capital: from typhoon victims, hungry farmers, the kin and sympathizers of soldiers slaughtered in a mishandled military operation, injustice against lumads… Then there’s still the cry for poverty alleviation.  

It is said that Duterte’s foul-mouthedness struck a chord and resonated among the many who wouldn’t mind grasping both sides of a sharp blade. And that included not only the marginalized, but surprisingly, even the A-B folks who suddenly hankered for discipline with a capital D, even if it made short work of civil liberties and human rights.

Well, the plurality has spoken. Whomever else we had supported in this election, the proper stance to take now is to accept the voice that won out, even if many more had expressed disgust over the winning candidate’s past pattern of behavior.

I take this stance: give the benefit of the doubt to those who voted him in as our next leader, that they were right with their feel of the pulse all along. Maybe they even had more sense than us.

Thus, we should give him the benefit of the doubt just as well. For the first three-to-six months? Heh heh. If indeed he does right, well and good, then let’s join in support, for the good of the country. If not, then the gloves could go off again.

The other contest still has to see a real winner. I hope it’ll be the widow in yellow once again, against the son of a continuing bad memory. Some of Duterte’s followers say they smell a rat, that tallying manipulation could install a spare tire who may benefit from impeachment or whatever other form of ouster is directed against our 16th president.    

Interesting times ahead. We can only hope that doesn’t mean the curse of turmoil as the Chinese say and mean it. Oh, and then there’s China to reckon with — after we all do our part in trying to explain our choice to an incredulous, head-shaking world. For now, and for some time to come.


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