Related column: Is Duterte a strongman? No, not yet. (News Sense, May 7, 2018)
A STRONGMAN in the Time cover story on the “Rise of the Era of the Strongman.” Then, in the Forbes annual ranking, one of the Most Powerful People of the World.
Being in both media splashes is not contradictory. Neither magazine uses the gauge of good work alone. Time measures by the capacity to change the world. Forbes makes the final roll by each one’s power over people, financial resources, power “in multiple spheres,” and active use of their power.
President Duterte was considered by Time in its May 14 international edition one of the four “strongmen” of the world. Forbes ranked him #69, from #70 last year, in its May 31 issue featuring the Most Powerful (75) People of the World.
‘We look like monsters”
Duterte doesn’t like the “strongman” tag at all. He already spoke out twice against the Time label. First, he questioned its basis, saying he doesn’t jail his critics and he accepts criticisms except those coming from foreigners, and he was overwhelmingly and honestly elected in 2016.
Then he denied he is a monster. He doesn’t behave like one and he says he doesn’t look like one. The visual art or photo on the Time cover, Duterte says, made them (with Russia’s Vladimir Putin, Hungary’s Viktor Orban, and Turkey’s Tayyip Erdogan) look like monsters.
On the 2017 Forbes listing, Malacañang said at the time that it welcomed the president’s inclusion and assured he’d “continue using the power for public good.” After all, Duterte was among the select 75 who were picked out of 7.5 billion people. Which means one of every 100 million people across the universe.
This year, however, he found the Forbes listing offensive. “I won’t accept it,” he said, “it’s a shame” if it’s given because of the 5,000 people killed in his drug war. And he’s not powerful, he said, “ours is an emerging country.” “Nakokornihan ako,” he said, maybe he scorns being deemed among the elite few that hold the world’s power.
Aim to influence
It’s clear that the Time and Forbes lists don’t just recognize the year’s play of power and influence on world-changing/shaking events. And media special reports don’t just chronicle a developing trend or coming danger, as Time’s “Rise of the Strongman” did. They also aim to influence the most powerful and most influential people, hoping they’ll redirect thrust and energy “for public good.”
In ranking Trump #3, from #2 last year (with Germany’s Angela Merkel and China’s XI Jinping), Forbes noted that the slide in the first year of a U.S. president’s term, was unprecedented. Trump, who loves to be in control always, may find that disconcerting enough to make changes in himself and his governance.
Duterte could change too, so he’d embrace the recognition Time and Forbes might give him in the next four years.