Malilong: Of rallies and ratings

MORE than a thousand rallied at the historic Plaza Independencia last week to express their support for President Duterte. The crowd estimate which was made by the police was disputed by the organizers, one of whom was quoted as saying that there must have been at least 5,000 in attendance.

Cebu City Mayor Tommy Osmeña was there. So was Cabinet Secretary Leoncio Evasco. But Presidential Assistant for the Visayas Michael Dino, wasn’t.

Dino was one of presidential candidate Duterte’s earliest and staunchest supporters in Cebu, which is probably why he got the OPAV post. Osmeña, on the other hand, backed Mar Roxas but towards the end of the campaign, he told his followers that he would not mind if they’d vote for Duterte. They may be united in their support of the president but Osmeña and Dino detest each other.

Unlike his allies like Cebu City South District Rep. Bebot Abellanosa, Osmeña did not jump over to the PDP-Laban camp after Duterte won. But he has been careful not to antagonize the president. On the contrary, he has been trying to get into Duterte’s good graces, through Evasco, obviously in order to assure approval and funding of his projects, especially the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system.

An OPAV source said that it was Evasco who helped Osmena get the much-needed endorsement by the National Economic Development Authority of the BRT and that Dino was not able to make his presentation of the Light Rail Transit (LRT) system, which he is proposing as an alternative to the BRT because of the cabinet secretary.

•••

I’m sure it was purely coincidence that two days after the pro-Duterte rally in Cebu, the results of the Social Weather Station (SWS) survey containing both bad and good news to Duterte were released.

The bad news is that President Duterte’s satisfaction and trust ratings have declined. The good news is that the numbers are still up.

It will be convenient to blame the president’s critics - those whom his fans derisively call the yellowtards - for the double digit dip in his ratings but it will be a gross mistake if they do that. There have to be reasons why the people are not as happy anymore with him as they had been three months ago other than that the opposition is allegedly trying to destabilize the government.

Note that the SWS survey was conducted in the same month that the Church rediscovered its voice and students of big universities in Metro Manila walked out of their campuses in protest of the violent deaths of many people, some of them very young, in the course of the war on drugs. During that same period, a huge shipment worth more than P6 billion of illegal drugs was smuggled right under the very noses of customs officials.

The police continue to deny that there are extrajudicial killings even if there are witnesses and video recordings that in at least a few cases, the victims did not resist but were killed in cold blood. In the meantime, the authorities still could not tell us how the huge quantity of shabu was cleared by the BOC for release.

Rightly or wrongly Duterte is getting all the blame for these shenanigans. And if his men dismiss the Church’s and the students’ protest as an aberration and do not address their causes, they will be doing the president a disservice and his numbers could plummet again even if his supporters rally everyday at the Plaza Independencia.
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