1/24/2016
Man on the street

"Hindi ako sigurado kung si Duterte ba talaga ang kailangan natin."

I was talking to Shalla. We were in the car. We just came from the hospital, where I picked up my X-ray results. (Normal, in case you were wondering.) We were on our way to the mall for lunch. It's some weird Saturday date we found ourselves in, and in between, we were talking about politics. And again, I was unstoppable.

"Sabi ni Cayetano, 'si Duterte, mayor ng Davao, and it's three times bigger than Metro Manila,'" I continued. "Ako, I'm, like, anong kuneksyon nun? Ibig sabihin ba nun kaya niya ang buong Pilipinas?"

I've always been on the record about being antsy with the idea of Rodrigo Duterte for president. Honestly, it's not even the questionable human rights record. Rather, it's the way a noisy bunch of people seem to have anointed him as The Man We Need. He cleaned Davao up; therefore, he could clean the whole of the Philippines up. There's some logic to that, but it's just a lot of jumping to early conclusions - but, sure, maybe he has a shot if you think of Mar Roxas' pandering and Grace Poe's inexperience and Jojo Binay's, well, you know.

What's getting to me more, though, are the pronouncements some of these people are making. I have friends who have said these things, even. You have one friend posting an article, supposedly of the rape and murder of a school girl being caught on CCTV. You already know it's questionable because the grammar is terrible, and the link is to a website you have never come across before - you know, the ones that usually have the word "trending" on its URL. Anyway, so such a link is shared, and that one friend accompanies it with a comment of his own. "Kung gusto ninyong matuloy ang ganito, huwag ninyong iboto si Duterte," he says.

I don't know. Maybe it is just my tendency to always think of the opposite meaning to things, as Shalla pointed out. But that statement was yelled stupid to me. So, if I don't vote for Duterte, does that mean I want crime to continue in this country? I get campaigning, but not to stupid conclusions.

"Wala kang dapat ikatakot kung hindi ka kurakot o kriminal," Alan Peter Cayetano - senator, Duterte's running mate, and possible puppy-eyed love fool - has said over and over again, in response to valid fears over Duterte's human rights record.

"Hindi naman ako natatakot kasi kriminal ako o kurakot," I told Shalla. "Natatakot ako kasi baka kung anong gawin mo, eh. 'Yung human rights record mo."

Okay, so maybe the human rights record does come into play in my case.

Many people have made this comparison, but it doesn't hurt to repeat it: Rodrigo Duterte is really like Donald Trump. Thankfully he's a more tolerant version of the guy. He appeals to this particular segment of Filipinos - a sizable one - who is just frustrated with how nothing changes despite promises that everything will. Noynoy Aquino is elected as president, and yet people are still being robbed and raped and stabbed and shot and killed. He can insist that things are better - and arguably things are - but the man on the street sees something else. Every time someone from government insists that the economy is looking up, someone from the slums wonders why he can't get a job. Or, why do government hospitals still treat me like shit? Why do policemen still ask me for bribes in favor of being let go? Why do I still have to squeeze myself in this train?

Right now, you have Mar Roxas claiming that things are looking up, and a vote for him is a vote to continue the progress made before. You have Jojo Binay appealing to the masses in the provinces, promising change by implying that, all this time, it's just the elites that get the spoils. You have... well, you have Grace Poe still trying to prove she's really Filipino. To this particular subset of Filipinos, they're just talking their way to your hearts. What will they solve? Nothing, or, perhaps, they'll make things worse. Thus, Duterte's appeal.

But that's just one subset. There's this other subset who just fear they'll find themselves in yet another one of those "lesser evil" scenarios, much like in 2010, when Noynoy got voted in partly because Erap, the "bigger evil", was running, too. And, sure, maybe the lesser evil could be the best option, as the last six years have proven, but why settle for less when you can go for a genuinely good deal? Maybe that subset is stupid for being all idealistic at this time, but then again, there's always this drama about making a good choice come election time. I can't say I blame them.

Our conversation in the car went nowhere, really, as it should be. Have I decided on who to vote for? No, of course I haven't. I haven't got enough to decide on. All we have right now are people posturing themselves against other people. But I can tell you this. I'm cynical. As it stands right now, I really don't know if I'll be voting for anybody in four months' time.

It was a Saturday, so the traffic along Alabang-Zapote Road was tough. We were in front of SM Southmall. Nobody was budging.

In the middle of the conversation we both spied this man walking in the middle of the street. Tattered clothes, dirty face, you get the idea. He was looking at the cars he walks past by, one by one. Peering through the windows, actually.

I noticed he was holding a laminated ID card on his left hand. I thought he must be some beggar asking for alms.

But then the guy turned his back, and I saw his other hand. He was holding a big rock. No, a big slab of concrete. Must be around a foot wide, an inch or two deep.

He begins looking at the car I was driving.

He begins peering at my car window.

"Hun," we both said, frozen, fearing the worst.

He peers at the back seat. There was nothing in there; just my bag, which had my X-ray results, and this paper bag filled with plastic envelopes containing, for some reason, my brother's old school stuff.

He walks back to the front of the car.

He walks away. He's set his sight on another car.

"May hawak siyang bato!" I said.

"Dapat kasi magpa-manyak tint ka," Shalla answered.

The car I was bringing had a heavier tint than the car I usually drive... only I don't drive it as much, because my brother feels entitled to it. What if I brought that car? I'd have broken glass on the floor. Worse, we might have been stabbed to death.

The traffic moves slightly, and I pass by a traffic enforcer. I ponder opening the window to tell him that there's this guy holding a big slab of concrete who might be looking to rob someone, but I don't, because if I open the window, some other guy might take advantage and rob me.

And your responses...

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