Praying to fail? To die?

For a 98 percent predominantly Catholic country, we seem to be at odds with the current leadership just because some do not like him physically, detest his presidential style and speech, wardrobe, demeanor and what have you. Some would pray to high heavens that he passes away on the whiff of a story, rumor, innuendo about his temporary inability to face the public for a nationwide address that is ill-prepared and badly edited. Or that he fails in handling a once-in-a-lifetime curve ball which is Covid-19.

Note: This column originally appeared in The Manila Times on April 13, 2021.

For a 98 percent predominantly Catholic country, we seem to be at odds with the current leadership just because some do not like him physically, detest his presidential style and speech, wardrobe, demeanor and what have you. Some would pray to high heavens that he passes away on the whiff of a story, rumor, innuendo about his temporary inability to face the public for a nationwide address that is ill-prepared and badly edited. Or that he fails in handling a once-in-a-lifetime curve ball which is Covid-19.

And yet, we are all in the same boat, cheering our country and others actually doing our share for nation building. Despite and in spite of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte (PRRD), there are Filipinos who believe in this country and carry the burden of trying to find that collaborative space to help out. Those who are willing to do so risk being called diehard Duterte supporters, bayaran (mercenaries), may resibo (favor seekers), higop (parasites), sipsip (bootlickers) and the like. No one cares about nation and being Filipino. The shades of various lenses are whether one is pro- or anti-Duterte.

We love putting our country down, what with comparative charts showing we are the last, which can run the gamut of GDP, HDI, FDIs, poverty threshold, unemployment, hunger, and even the increase of Covid cases, among others. Those talking about our strengths are few and far between. Co-creation and collaborative work are shunned, and the moment you contribute solutions to problems, you are viewed as seeking an appointment.

And yet this administration is near its destination from very rough seas. It was this administration that broke past the 22 percent poverty threshold in a full steam ahead economy, possibly reaching middle income status in 2019 just before Covid-19 came globally hitting everyone. “No nation and government were ever ready for it from the very beginning.” Instead of doing all-hands-on-deck, critics started trending #NasaanAngPangulo, as if that will solve our problems. As if it will redound to the interest of Filipinos.

And yet with only 13 months or 390 days to go before the siren blares heralding the end of the Duterte administration and a new clarion call comes in, PRRD has an approval rating of 65 percent and a total high rating of 55 percent, making him the only president to have such ratings at such a period. His endearing traits are brave (82 percent), love for the Philippines (80 percent) and concern for Filipinos (74 percent). Since the decisiveness metric has been introduced in Pahayag, PRRD remains the most decisive leader at 67 percent.

Just to balance out things, Filipinos have also the right to know what is physically wrong with the President. We should be concerned because at this most opportune time, we need stability and pragmatic steering of the ship of state. We cannot afford a change in the captain of the ship. We do not have the luxury of trudging another path. Being transparent and open, PRRD has to be forthright about his physical condition so the country is prepared for any eventuality.

The communication team of PRRD will also have to steer clear from propagandistic briefings and just stick to message and communicate strategically and clearly. In a crisis, communication is the handle and picking a fight on national TV is no way to go. Worse, answering a diatribe or two is giving prominence to a non-issue. Briefings need to be timely giving out clear and understandable directives. Stop doing a scientific one because the audience are not getting it. Keep It Short and Simple (KISS) is today’s sacred grail, what with too much information being digested differently.

Still, clearly, social media news registered the highest “high usage” rate at around 70 percent in the recent Pahayag-Q1. TV news trails far behind at 62 percent when TV is universal, and the internet is not in our country. The last mile remains unserved, and connectivity is not stable as in other countries. Facebook has the highest “high usage” rate with 67 percent of respondents, YouTube is close behind with “high usage rate” of 61 percent. Both platforms have near-universal usage rate at 99 percent.

The Duterte administration will finally be judged by Filipinos in terms of two crucial things: vaccine and rebuilding economic gains. It is not mutually exclusive, but it is interesting to see how these two-pronged challenges can be converted into opportunities moving forward.

Before, herd immunity was invoked as the way to resolve with finality Covid-19, but with the mutations and variants developing as every country evolves with it, herd immunity is no longer the main driver for rebuilding a resilient economy. It used to be that 75 percent coverage was herd immunity. Today, after a year of being exposed to Covid-19, herd immunity only works if most people in the population are vaccinated. If people are not vaccinated, herd immunity is not guaranteed to protect them. Hence, if one lives in an area where vaccine coverage is low, and your child is not vaccinated, it’s quite likely that many of the people they come into contact with will not be vaccinated either.

Unlike vaccination, herd immunity does not give a high level of individual protection, and so it is not a good alternative to getting vaccinated. Vaccination is our communal commitment and so as with the minimum health protocols. Let us do our share. The government is not the enemy. Surely, there are lapses and missed opportunities but wishing a leader ill is the negation of our being. Duterte won fair and square. The result of the mid-terms is crystal clear. Let us not destroy our country because we are all in this together.

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About the Author
Malou Tiqiua is the Founder/General Manager of PUBLiCUS Asia Inc. A noted political management expert in the Philippines and Asia, she brings over 20 years of professional experience in public, private and the academe combined. Author of the comprehensive book on electoral campaigns in the Philippines, "Campaign Politics", Malou is a graduate of the University of the Philippines with a Political Science degree and a Master of Public Administration. She completed her second master's degree (MA in Political Management) from the Graduate School of Political Management, George Washington University.
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