DAVAO City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte has become one of the most talked-about presidential candidates on social media, something that his supporters hope will make up for a lack of campaign funds.
Online, they share designs for campaign materials, organize and promote fund-raising events like concerts, and appeal to voters—especially in Bisaya-speaking communities—to support Duterte’s campaign.
“Kusog kaayo atong online (We are doing well online). In fact, about 200 Duterte pages exist all over the country. In Cebu, we received 100 registrations to join the movement,” said Jonji Gonzales, chief executive officer and founder of the Mugstoria website.
Combined, these pages have at least 14.5 million likes or followers.
A lively social media presence complements campaign activities, whether online or offline, led by other groups or individuals, like Cebu campaign manager Atty. Rex Fernandez or Cebu for Duterte coordinator Dr. Rowena Burden.
Gonzales said that after he volunteered to campaign for Duterte, one of his strategies was to organize the Bisaya na Pud movement. (“Bisaya na pud” means “It’s time for a Bisaya.”) This began with an informal gathering of persons who manage Facebook pages or websites in Bisaya. Most are 20 to 25 years old.
“We realized that if we gathered them and asked them to support a Bisaya, they would definitely agree to support (Mayor Duterte,” Gonzales said.
To gain more followers, the Bisaya Na Pud movement shares or reposts pro-Duterte messages from other Facebook pages with 5,000 or more likes. Gonzales said that his team alone handles at least 20 fan pages that help promote the Davao City mayor. These, he said, include Bisaya Inspiring Stories, Medyo Maldito, and Digos Good Vibes.
“The role of these pages is to amplify the ordinary voices of people, which makes the campaign more organic,” said Kevin Maglinte, 21, another Duterte volunteer who also serves as chief operating officer of Mugstoria.
At least 80 percent of their content comes from individual supporters, he added. Among the pages he handles is a fan page for the mayor’s daughter, Sara Duterte, and Rody Duterte International.
There is an offline component to the campaign, as well.
Lawyer Rex Fernandez, campaign manager for Cebu Province, said they also intend to build headquarters in each town and have told their volunteers to talk to people about their candidate.
The lack of campaign funds gets addressed, in part, by donations from Cebuanos “who hate drugs, crime and corruption.”
“We have reached into our pockets…We have been doing a ‘pinobre’ nga kampanya (low-budget campaign). Empty sacks, any spare wood, and anything that can be used to send a message will be used,” Fernandez said.
He said they will also talk to Cebu’s politicians and ask for their support.
“We will win Cebu by telling people that Duterte is a Cebuano and, like any Cebuano, hates drugs, crime, corruption and martial law, loves peace, human rights, the rule of law, national unity, federalism, a healthy and sustainable environment, transparency, and accountability in government,” he said.
Dr. Rowena Burden, campaign coordinator of the volunteer group Cebu for Duterte, said she actively solicits for campaign materials from fellow supporters of the Davao City mayor.
Her fellow volunteers—business owners, professionals, homemakers and other members of Cebu for Duterte—are doing the same, she said.
“This opportunity to elect a president who wouldn’t be indebted to traditional politicians and big businesses is something that we can’t afford to pass up,” Dr. Burden said. “I and all the other volunteers who are emptying our pockets and taking time out from our families and work or businesses, are investing in the future of our country.”
The lack of campaign funds also means that the thousands who gather for Duterte’s rallies are there of their own choice, Gonzales said.
“Wala man ta’y kwarta ihakot (We do not have the money to ask people to attend the rally),” he said.
Campaign supporters have posted high-resolution designs that others can download and print on their T-shirts and posters.
“Sometimes, we lack funds to print campaign materials but social media is free… and that’s where his supporters, the netizens, are,” Gonzales added. “Let us use social media to campaign for Duterte, but use it responsibly, not to resort to cyber-bullying.”
Efforts to promote Duterte’s candidacy began more than a year ago, recalled volunteer and brand strategist John Henry Delfino, with the “R yOu ready?” social media campaign.
A few months later, his group came up with “DU30.”
In Mandaue City, council candidate Engr. Gaga Mendoza is also campaigning for the Davao City mayor. Mendoza, former head of the City Environment and Natural Resources Office, said he has gained pledges of support from various groups, including fraternities, drivers’ associations, and a federation of bikers.