How do you solve a problem like Duterte

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The older you are the more stories you have to tell.

Rodrigo Duterte, at age 71, surely has a lot of them. It is sometimes in the telling when great stories are made, and it is also in the telling when they are misunderstood. In the age of social media and self-publishing, the story can be stretched, bent, cut or blown out of proportion, depending on who is doing the telling. That raises a whole lot of problems when you’re running for President.

The mayor has apologized for his words on an incident of rape, but not for his foul mouth. He has apologized for something he has said but will not apologize for who he is. And that is Digong true to form.

Perhaps a collective sigh of relief was heard from his thousands of supporters, even from those who thought an apology was not necessary. But for his detractors it will never be enough.

His foul mouth will be his downfall. They said that when he had apparently “cursed” the Pope, blaming the Pontiff for traffic that made him late for an engagement. They said it again after a clip culled from one of his campaign sorties made its rounds on social media. They say it every time the Mayor curses.

His media managers have their work cut out for them, having not only to translate Digong’s istambay sa kanto language, which he always uses during ambush interviews, to non-Visayan speakers but also to explain the Bisaya psyche to a great number of people who will not understand it because they not only refuse to do so; they just simply can’t. There is a great deal lost in translation, and even more in the cultural divide.
How does one solve that problem?

When detractors call out the Mayor’s unsuitability for the highest office in the country, his supporters are always quick to enumerate the achievements he has made in Davao City, and how change is coming for the country should he be elected. “Yes, he kills drug pushers and addicts, but he supports the city-run rehab center.” Or “He has been called mayabang, but his face is nowhere to be found on any city project.”

A student of Philosophy may point out a logical flaw in that practice, but the explanation is simple. At the end of the day, when all the other candidates have promised this and that, when they have excused their failures as the fault of someone else, when they claim their enormous wealth as legitimate, Duterte’s achievements still stand.

And that is why crowds still come to his sorties, people waiting in the street for hours, with no promise of food or compensation as there usually are on other candidates’ rallies.

How could this crass old man with the mouth of a kanto boy bring this much hope and expectation to people not just in Mindanao and the Visayas but in cities in the capital as well?

How do you solve a problem like Duterte?

You can’t. Because to the people who have come to hear him speak, he is not a problem at all.

He is the solution.

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