During the 2016 campaign, then Davao mayor and presidential candidate Rodrigo Duterte was handed sheets of paper of his supposed speech before a crowd of enthusiastic voters.
He got the papers, placed them on the rostrum and did not even bother to read them. He went on to deliver his speech extemporaneously, complete with tales of his stint as a local government official and spiced up with, you guessed it right, his by now familiar expletives.
Be that as it may, the crowd lapped up every bit of his stories, interrupting them with applause and sometimes catcalls as the storyteller gave them what they wanted to hear — jokes, jokes and more jokes. He spiced up his narratives with what he would do, unorthodox as they may seem, once elected.
Even then, Pinoy listeners did not seem to mind the unconventional candidate who abhorred reading what speechwriters have prepared.
Even after being elected, he continued delivering speeches without much help from prepared stuff.
Asked once why he shuns such, he had a simple answer: “I don’t want to be like them,” he says, referring to traditional politicians who promise the moon and the stars. He is not wont to oblige his audience with, as Imeldific would say, “the true, the good and the beautiful.”
He wants to tell it as it is, sans the sauce. He even spices it with what prim and proper politicians consider a no-no — curses and more curses.
But the crowd simply loved every bit of it, as finally here’s this candidate who would not act what he is not. Take him or leave him, as the saying goes.
Four years into his presidency, the then reluctant candidate has grown to the ways of being national leader and has grown more confident of his ways, although slower now with his plethora of medical conditions. The expletives are still there, yet he still says what he wants to say without any flavorings. Very Duterte, as one observer points out in reference to his weekly briefings in relation to the ongoing pandemic.
Now compare that with his vice president who grabs every opportunity to show she wants to be the complete opposite of the man who yanked her out of the Cabinet.
Her most recent PR stunt in which she delivered her “recommendations” on ways to improve the “fight” versus the coronavirus came across as a pretty competent stage act that left her fans gushing. Unfortunately, all it really proved is that Leni Robredo can read — but not necessarily lead.
She went into what seemed to be the finer details around “restarting the economy,” “budget utilization,” and “reporting of data” — fields of expertise that clearly go way beyond her known expertise in the fields of “human rights” lawyering, so says a jaded observer.
Filipinos, however, won’t be easily swayed. They know their politics. They know the difference between a fictitious character and the real McCoy. Reading off a script certainly does not prove much.
As vice president, Robredo is supposed to be part of government. The question therefore is why does she deliver her recommendations to the media first, rather than to her own government?
There is a place for PR-driven public messaging, and that is during election campaigns and not during a pandemic. She obviously has not matured enough in the four years that she’s been warming up her seat as VP.
Or is it just because that is what her PR consultants or party mates have asked her to say and prop her up as the better alternative to the stammering, cursing Duterte?
As the pandemic plays out, it is easy to see that the main drive of the opposition is not to help Filipinos deal with the crisis altogether. Their goal is to show that Duterte is not fit to lead and Robredo has what it takes to show us the way.
With no opposition leader charismatic enough to go against the widely popular incumbent, Robredo has that unenviable task of rallying the anti-Duterte forces come 2022.
You don’t need to be a jaded political observer to see through the opposition plan.
As Duterte would probably exclaim, Whiskey, Tango Foxtrot (WTF)!