High hopes” was first published in the Philippine Daily Inquirer on July 2, 2016. (Pilipino version: “Matatayog na Pag-asa“)

Has the worm truly turned into a butterfly? The speech at the presidential inauguration hopefully heralds the beginning of the transformation: The candidate is working to become more presidential.

President Rodrigo Duterte’s election strategists had tapped into the rage repressed over decades of government failure to address basic needs. They stoked and fanned this anger to fever pitch by a campaign of calculated crudeness and verbal violence and turned it against political rivals, especially those in power, as the presumed sources of the current public misery, whose roots were actually planted well before their term.

The strategy succeeded brilliantly, mobilizing anonymous and unverified social media speculation to trump more rigorously-vetted social science research, projecting a sense of national crisis that demanded decisive strongman rule. This narrative baffled followers of Social Weather Stations (SWS) surveys, which reported positive approval scores for the overall performance of the administration and public morale never higher at the end of a presidential term.

The trash-talking, scorched-earth strategy, we were told, was devised only for the campaign. The authors recognized that what had proven emotionally effective for exciting and engaging voters can impede rational problem-solving, the crafting of public policies and the pursuit of good governance. Continue reading

Edilberto de Jesus
Edilberto de Jesus is a former Secretary of Education. He is also professor emeritus at the Asian Institute of Management.