Of the many deeply unattractive features of The Liberal Party of The Philippines, one of the most persistently grating traits is a mentality among top Liberal politicians that causes them to act as though they have an inherent right to rule the nation – as though by divine right. This sanctimonious and pompous attitude has led a majority of Filipino voters to distance themselves from the Yellows, but for President Rodrigo Duterte, the self-righteousness of his most vocal opponents elicits responses that are laced with acerbic humour.
This week, Duterte sardonically invited voters to support the Senate bid of his ousted rival in the 2016 Presidential election, Mar Roxas. Duterte stated,
“He (Mar) is an Ilonggo. Vote for him, there’s no problem with that. I think Roxas will run again (for the presidency). Why don’t you try him and see for yourself? You can only measure a man’s stamina for doing a particular activity for his fellowmen”.
This “endorsement” was clearly a challenge to walk a mile in the shoes of an actual political leader facing down narco-terrorism, economic challenges and building new geopolitical relations on a regular basis. And yet as they often do, Duterte’s opponents took a humorous remark literally. Liberal Vice President Leni Robredo thanked Duterte for his endorsement of a Yellow candidate and later Mar Roxas himself thanked Duterte. Both appeared to be oblivious as to what Duterte was actually saying.
In a recent piece called Five Breeds of Duterte Haters, I discussed the particular humourlessness among many of those who openly project their loathing of The Philippine President:
“The other thing that binds Duterte detractors together is a total lack of any sense of humour. Duterte is not only a prolific President but an expert at trolling his opponents. He often repeats the insults he has to deal with and jokingly turns these insults into positive attributes as a rhetorical device to expose the absurdity of the original accusations. Those who do not understand this are guilty either of having no sense of humour, being objectively stupid or people from the west who can only understand an English speaker if their accent resembles that of Orson Welles or the Queen of England”.
In “endorsing” Roxas, Duterte is going beyond a rhetorical slight of hand and is openly disguising a challenge as a compliment. By taking the bait, both Leni and Mar have exposed their self-righteous indignation against Duterte that they claim is part and parcel of their being, as little more than a political con used to dissuade Filipinos from supporting Duterte and his political allies. If all it takes is a sarcastic endorsement from Duterte towards a Yellow candidate for Duterte to earn praise from his opponents, the question that is naturally begged is: ‘How serious can the public take the Yellows when they are insulting Duterte’?
The fact remains that while the Liberal Party of The Philippines is hardly even able to articulate its own policies, when one scratches the surface, one finds little more than outmoded protectionist economics which serves only a small class of corrupt oligarchs combined with militant nationalism of the 19th century variety that would see The Philippines conflicting with its closet neighbours rather than trading with its closest neighbours. Domestically the party is even more of a sham, having attached themselves to the pro-narco agenda by so virulently opposing Duterte’s willingness to enforce old laws against dangerous criminals.
And yet while there is much that is vomit inducing about the Yellows, Duterte continues to demonstrate his ability to lead the country in a chorus of laughter all the while the humourless Liberals themselves do not realise that they have become the butt of a national joke.