Last laugh

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Unable to shake off President Duterte’s immense popularity three years into his term, powerful forces opposed to his reformist agenda have reportedly turned to a multi-million-dollar international campaign to turn the tide of the public opinion battle in their favor.

Blunted at every opportunity locally by the strong support of the Filipino people, liberal neo-imperialists, according to reports, have poured a considerable amount of resources on an anti-Duterte black propaganda internationally, meant to weaken Duterte’s popularity and make it easier for them to oust him from power.

The amount of money and the extent of the open conspiracy revealed in an expose by a retired diplomat are shocking mainly because of the immensity of various anti-Duterte operations.

Sadly, for them, however, none of it has worked so far. Halfway into his term, Duterte’s popularity remained high with a net satisfaction rating of 68 percent in the second quarter, surpassing a previous high of 66 percent in the January-March period as per the latest poll.

His performance defies a trend among past presidents whose ratings deteriorated as they wrapped up the first half of their terms of office. Not only that. His chosen candidates won by a landslide in the last midterm polls.

The recently-adopted United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) resolution, which lays out several key actions against so called rising killings in the country under Duterte’s war on drugs, has been viewed as a desperate attempt by anti-Duterte forces to weaken his base of support.

Eighteen out of 47 member countries (15 abstentions) backed the Iceland-proposed resolution, which asked UN rights chief Michel Bachelet to write a comprehensive report on the Philippine situation and present it to the council.

Malacañang has called the resolution “grotesquely one-sided’ and an insult to Filipinos.

“It reeks of nauseating politics completely devoid of respect for the sovereignty of our country, even as it is bereft of the gruesome realities of the drug menace in the country,” says presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo.

Why an insult? The Palace cited that majority of Filipinos have expressed satisfaction with Duterte’s governance in local surveys.

“The overwhelming majority of the Filipino electorate, who mercilessly crushed the intellectual and nationalist pretensions of those who peddled the bogus news, untruthful accounts and vicious propaganda on the President’s campaign against illegal drugs, are grossly and thoroughly insulted by the resolution that echoes such falsities,” says Panelo.

As far as the Palace is concerned, the resolution was “designed to embarrass the Philippines before the international community and the global audience.”

Even Sen. Panfilo Lacson rejected the UN move, saying the Philippines has a functioning criminal justice system that deals with erring law enforcers and that the government regularly provides funding for the Commission on Human Rights.

“Obviously, we can manage without the intervention of the UN Human Rights Council,” says Lacson, who headed the Senate Committee on Public Order and Dangerous Drugs and had led investigations into the drug war.

Former Philippine Permanent Representative to the UN Lauro Baja Jr., meanwhile, is of the opinion that even with a resolution, the UNHRC cannot force its way to investigate the human rights situation in the country, saying the decision still depends on the Duterte government.

“It’s a judgment call by the administration,” Baja says.

In times like this, Duterte can choose to ignore the resolution, move on and bank on his widespread popularity to do what he is supposed to do. With a combination of persistence, an unwavering commitment to delivering on key policy matters and a loyal public, the fiery Chief Executive, we believe, can surmount the odds.

Meantime, his diehard supporters can use his remaining years in office to encourage him to go forward with federal and parliamentary reforms. If it is possible for him to retain and in fact gain popularity in spite of the literal global conspiracy against him, it is also possible to fight what remains of the old guard on all sides of the broken political system.

We’re pretty confident he will have the last laugh.

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