Orderly, less momentous the Philippine elections were, given it had the least violent incidents and boisterous uproars over the results. Save for an ongoing neck-to-neck battle for the vice-presidency, wherein brickbats and charges between the main protagonists are expected as Leni Robredo and Bongbong Marcos brace for a photo-finish when the official count is over.
But the same cannot be said for the no-nonsense and firm Davao City strongman Rodrigo Duterte, whom Filipinos voted unanimously as their next president. A landslide it was.
It was largely a choice of a proven track record over uncertain platforms as Digong, as he is fondly called, made his renowned city a poster place of peace and order as mayor for 22 years, having been re-elected seven times. Definitely, the choice was clear. His less-talk yet menacing poise to exact change in a country mired in corruption, crime, inefficiency, and abject poverty is a proposition too fascinating to flout.
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He was a sensation, simply someone who must win the presidency—maybe the solution to the nation’s problems Filipinos haven’t tried yet, and with his previous accomplishments, someone who could really make things work.
And, as the Internet never forgets, it does take the stand to know what’s best, especially for the social media following Duterte garnered that surely became a big factor behind his victory.
Despite having the slowest Internet speeds in the world with an average 2.8Mbps against a 5.1Mbps global average, Filipinos are one of the most active digital media users in the world, with 47.1 million active Internet users accounting for nearly half of the Philippines’ total population of 101.47 million, according to the We Are Social “Digital Snapshot” of the Philippines this year. Social media users? It’s an eye-popping 48 million or 47% of all Filipinos residing in the country owning social media accounts, the study further said. This grew from 40 million or 40% of the Philippine population last year.
And, it is quite compelling for Duterte to get the attention of his social media followers, given that Filipinos on the average spend the most time on social worldwide at 3.7 hours a day, the Singapore-based study further said. Americans only spend an average 1.7 hours a day, and worse the Japanese, 30 minutes.
Thus, given its reach and appeal to the electorate mostly part of this “digital demographic,” Duterte’s handlers knew this goldmine too well. Digital and social became the Davao “Punisher’s” (known for his uncompromising stance in punishing wrongdoers) expansive podium wherein a single post on Facebook reaches millions instantly. More so, with messages of “change,” criminal purge, beating the drug menace, and eradicating corruption, tens of millions liked, shared, retweeted, or loved it.
On Facebook alone, 15.2 million discussions were made about Duterte, who had a whopping 3.09 million likes on his official page. Posts about what Duterte can do as the next president became the most viral on netizenland, thanks to his 14 million “social media volunteers,” according to Duterte spokesperson Peter Laviña. Because of their support, Laviña said, Duterte’s campaign still reached a wider base despite having a smaller campaign kitty than most of the candidates.
Add to that, famous celebrities with their own millions of followers voicing out their support for the now president-elect.
And with that, Filipino politicians truly had lessons learned with Duterte’s immense social triumph. Instead of shouting until their vocal chords break during rallies, dance the night away like fools to entertain crowds during campaign sorties, or plainly rely on media advertisements worth billions, election bets should be wiser to tap this growing base of digital natives in the Philippines (expected to double or even triple by the year ends).
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Photograph from news.abs-cbn.com