Duterte Phenomena: Zaitgeist and Filipino Culture

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Duterte Phenomena: Zaitgeist and Filipino Culture

Topic |  


The May 9, 2016 National Election is fast approaching and the popularity of Presidential candidate Mayor Rodrigo Duterte is surging upward.  The erstwhile poll survey leader, Sen. Grace Poe is now behind by 5%, which is beyond the probability of error of the surveys.

Let us try to analyze the reasons of the upsurge of Mayor Duterte.



Zeitgeist is a German word that is adopted into English.  It literally means “spirit of the time”.  It is the intellectual and moral tendencies that characterize any age or epoch.  It is an inexplicable situation when most of the people will have similar opinions.

In the 1940s there was World War II.  Nobody could explain why all countries in the world were at war.  In the 1950s there was the “Rock and Roll” phenomenon with Elvis Presley as the foremost figure.  It changed the music and dance in the world.

In the late 1960s there were the “counter-culture” and student activism phenomena. Again, nobody could explain why it happened.

Nowadays, in the political arena, there is a worldwide desire for a strong and nonsense political leadership.  In the United States, the Republican Party first dismissed the platforms of candidate Donald Trump as preposterous.  However the Republican Party bigwigs were surprised when Donald Trump kept on winning in the primaries.

In the Philippines the supposed elite of society viewed the candidacy of the bad language and tough-talk presidential candidacy of Mayor Duterte as a nuisance.  However, the message of Mayor Duterte struck a sympathetic chord to the spirit of the times.

Now all the other Presidential Candidates are now also trying to talk tough.  Sen. Poe is now saying that she can stop criminality in the Philippines in one month.  She is trying to beat Mayor Duterte’s three (3) to six (6) months.


The zeitgeist now is for change and Mayor Duterte is the perceived idol.  It is like the Rock and Roll era when the dance and music were changed by Elvis Presley who was the idol of the time.


Desired Change

The usual issue during elections is the elimination of poverty and graft and corruption.

President P-Noy tried to solve the situation by his “Daang Matuwid = Straight Path” and the slogan “Kung walang corrupt walang mahirap. = When there are no corrupt people there will be no poor.”


The emphasis of President P-Noy is economic growth.  His anointed candidate is following the same line.  The economy has grown but the number of poor Filipinos has increased.  Surely, economic growth is not the solution.  Following President P-Noys slogan, since the number of poor people increased, then the number of corrupt people increased.

The other presidential candidates, Sen. Poe and Vice President Binay are also emphasizing how to eliminate poverty by saying they are “pro-poor”.  It is a motherhood statement that can have many meanings.


Mayor Duterte proposed a different tact, he emphasized law and order.  Eliminate crime in 3 to 6 months.  When crime is eliminated there will be peace and order.  Then there will be a good business climate.  When businesses will flourish, jobs will be created, and people will have jobs.  It is not about elimination of poverty because as the Holy Bible say, “The poor will always be with you even unto the end of the world.”

The desire of majority of the Filipino is contentment as compared to satisfaction.  Contentment is based on need.  The poor farmers in Kidapawan, Cotabato only asked for rice to eat. If his need is achieved a Filipino will be contented.  He does not want to be rich.  However it must be borne in mind that every Filipino has different contentment level.  In Bohol the usual saying is “Pila ra bay ibítad sa hábol. = How much do you need to pull the blanket.”

Satisfaction is based on want. If a candidate wants to win, he will be always ready to protest if he losses in the election.

Sen. Poe – Robredo Interaction

Sen. Grace Poe is running for President while Rep. Leni Robredo is running for Vice President.  Do you know that when the rating of Rep. Robredo goes up, the rating of Sen. Poe must necessarily go down?

I have interviewed many Boholanos and majority does not desire a female President and female Vice President.  It is safe to assume that it is also the behavior in other parts of the Philippines.

The rise in the poll rating of Rep. Robredo is attributed to the Filipino culture that if the father is strict, the mother must be compassionate.

Since the perceived leading contender for the Presidency is the tough-talking and strict Mayor Duterte, many Filipinos, especially the women, desires to pair with him a compassionate mother-figure in Leni Robredo.

So if the poll rating of Leni Robredo as Vice President will still rise further, then by logic we can say that the rating of Sen. Poe will go down. The situation is very advantageous to the candidacy of Mayor Duterte as President.

So aside from satisfying the zeitgeist, Mayor Duterte is aided by a Filipino culture in a strict father and compassionate mother in a family.

If Leni Robredo is viewed as a compassionate mother, she could not be paired with Sec. Roxas or Vice President Binay.  That impression can only be paired with Mayor Duterte.

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