KALIBO, Aklan – Mayor Rodrigo Duterte capped his invasion of Western Visayas with aplomb as he added another fanatical base the enemy had always considered its own.
Duterte had to take the long route – by boat from Boracay and van from Caticlan just to honor his commitment to the people of Kalibo. It was the rock star’s part of the sacrifice both sides had to take just to make the event a success.
The rally at Pastrana Park was everything both speaker and audience could ask for.
There was little sign of the fatigue and exhaustion that should wear down any candidate this late in the campaign trail. The only hint was the voice that has turned hoarse after too many nights in too many places.
Duterte appeared the least bothered by the firestorm touched off by his recollection of a hostage-taking incident 27 years ago.
Defiant and unapologetic for remarks he made after the drama ended with the death of all the hostage-takers, Duterte took the opportunity to lash back not only at those milking the incident to pull him down.
The mayor, no stranger to controversy and no respecter of persons, twitted no less than the ambassadors of the United States and Australia for weighing in on the ruckus at this juncture in the campaign.
“Shut up!” Duterte blasted away at the diplomats of the two countries, sparking a wild frenzy from a crowd that expressed overwhelming approval for the mayor’s stance.
It was not the first time Duterte had tangled with foreign governments. The first time was in 1995 when he burned the flag of Singapore to show his displeasure not only over the hanging of Flor Contemplacion but also the treatment its leaders gave to then Pres. Fidel Ramos.
Duterte, a self-proclaimed leftist, never hid his anti-American sentiments especially after intelligence operatives plucked out an agent from a Davao hotel who was injured in a botched bombing plot.
Prior to last week’s brouhaha, however, Duterte had been lavished in his praises for Australia’s environmental policies, stating repeatedly that mining companies operating in the Philippines should comply with stringent laws set by Australia.
Just like the crowds in Bacolod and Iloilo, the one in Kalibo showed it was the least concern with Duterte’s language and even his latest misadventure.
“I was using a slang – because I was angry,” Duterte said to explain the phrase that opponents and critics are capitalizing on.
The affirming of support through the thunderous applause and howls of glee in Kalibo, as well as the two previous venues, should be enough to strike fear in the hearts of those who have made self-serving claims that the region is in the bag.
While rival parties have been accused of bribing their audiences just to bring them in, those in Kalibo were certified walk-ins who waited for as much as 10 hours.
When they finally saw Duterte in the flesh, the crowd in Kalibo showed no sign of irritation and resentment – something which supporters of other groups cannot do.
The sight of the multitude of believers galvanized Duterte to speak at length that he had to be repeatedly reminded that he had another audience waiting in Cebu.
Wherever he goes, people have declared Duterte as the people’s candidate and Kalibo was no exception. The shrieks of joy from those who successfully took selfies with him, some jumping up and down as though they just hit the jackpot, was as spontaneous in Kalibo as it was elsewhere.
“Only cheating can prevent Duterte from winning the election,” a young man was overheard telling a fellow youth while witnessing the fanatical welcome.
His companion replied what more and more people have been saying: it will spark unrest that would not subside until Duterte has been installed.
It is normal to hear that in Mindanao, in the two other regions in the Visayas, in the National Capital Regions and Central Luzon cities which have laid out riotous welcomes for Duterte.
To hear such declarations in Western Visayas is something else. It means that somebody just lost a region where he intended to win big to justify whatever “victory” he might claim in a stolen election.
Kalibo comes from the vernacular word thousand “sangka libo”. The thousands that turned up in Duterte’s rally in Kalibo mirrors the nationwide consensus passionately committed to his victory.
Those thinking they can play with the people’s sentiment have another think coming. | Chito Fuentes