Duterte's most powerful weapon: Unrelenting supporters

Magno Ardenia, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 11 2016 10:56 PM | Updated as of May 12 2016 10:27 AM

It's not just political machinery or years of leadership experience that brought presumptive Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte to victory.

Analysts say Duterte's strongest weapon is his massive throng of supporters who campaigned for him despite various boo-boos he committed throughout the presidential campaign.

READ: Duterte camp to supporters: 'Kalma lang kayo'

Unlike other presidential candidates, who are mostly backed by the elite and prominent political groups, Duterte's supporters are mostly middle class volunteers who are willing to invest whatever they have for their candidate, according to sociologist Nicole Curato.

“I’ve attended some of these movements, in Tacloban for example, these are volunteers, these are middle class volunteers who willingly share 2,000 pesos, you have OFWs from Jeddah sending 5,000 pesos to print t-shirt, which is nothing compared to big campaign contributors that other campaigns have," Curato told ANC Wednesday.

Curato said the Duterte phenomenon is fueled by supporters who are passionate about "change."

“So what I’m saying here is I guess, behind the Duterte phenomenon is something that we cannot deny, this is a grassroots movement of people who are willing to invest on a candidate, these are core supporters and committed supporters that not all candidates have,” she added.

Duterte's supporters also held on to the mayor's track record.

“I think a big part of the Duterte narrative is the Davao story, when I talked to people who are supporters of Mayor Duterte they only have to make reference to Davao as this peace and order paradise, so I think what matters here is not just the simple discourse of change but it’s change with a track record,” she said.

Support for Duterte also solidified, thanks to the tough-talking mayor's ability to effectively communicate a message to urgently solve pressing issues, such as unrest in Mindanao.

“If you will live for example in Mindanao, and you grow in a conflict zone and someone says 'I am from Mindanao, I know what to do and we can resolve this soon and I will use my political capital to talk to insurgence, to talk to terrorists or to just forge a peace process,' then it really is compelling,” she said.

"If you talk to someone from an urban center who's really harassed with the daily inhumanity of trains or daily inhumanity of Metro Manila traffic, then you have a character who says 'I can do this in 3 to 6 months,' then that's very compelling," she added.

In a separate interview, political analyst Ramon Casiple noted Duterte's rise to power is a people-initiated movement.

“Mayor Duterte is an unconventional candidate, he does not go through the usual organizing of voters or so on, it’s a movement, what we call now the 'Duterte phenomenon,' is basically people using him as the face of their protest, of their frustration, in a sense it’s a negative vote and you cannot go against it, meaning it’s better in fact to go for positive campaign if there is no issue involved but I think there’s a big issue here, it’s a rejection of the performance of the last administration,” he said.