[OPINION | NEWSPOINT] Where numbers lie
As a matter of course, truth is conceded in the adage "Numbers don't lie." Well, not the numbers served up by our pollsters these days.
The fact is, any polled number, no matter if arrived at by simple counting or some complex scientific process, remains just that – a number; it will not even begin to reveal any essential truth, let alone the complete truth, until validated by inquiries designed to uncover inhibitions and such other feelings as may have prevented respondents being wholly truthful. Indeed, such is the precise rigor called for in taking the national sociopolitical pulse in our particular case and in these crazily polarizing times.
Our pollsters are doubtless as fair, as competent, as professional, indeed, as pollsters come. But I wonder whether the general standards of polling and ways of conducting it are good enough to produce reliable results for us. I myself would expect our pollsters to make allowances for the limited fidelity to the truth afforded their polls by the peculiar circumstances in which they are undertaken.
Surely the most critical of these circumstances have to do with culture. Our long colonial history and the perpetuation of the patronage mentality developed from those times and the draconian presidency under which we have found ourselves seem to me to have combined to instill a sense of fear on the one hand and a sense of opportunism on the other.
It's a culture in which power and patronage flow down a hierarchical chain along which one is patron to the one below and at the same time client to the one above – if you're looking for a job or looking to get out of a fix you're looking for a patron. It's an arrangement that engenders fear as well as servility and, consequently, discourages truth telling.
In the prevailing arrangement the ultimate patron is – who else? – President Duterte. The most feared as well as the most indulged, he naturally gets the highest ratings.
But that's where the logic of polling ends for us – and for Duterte, too. His centerpiece espousals have been rating poorly – EJK (extra-judicial, or summary, killings in his war on drugs), martial law or any other form of authoritarian rule, constitutional change, federalism, cozying up to China.
I guess respondents reckon that giving Duterte a high approval is enough concession to him and his patronage for them to be left alone to some measure of free choice on the other issues. That, of course, is unhealthy in itself.
But unhealthy is the exact national condition, only grown worse with Duterte. Preceded by a reputation as a mayor who ruled his provincial city for over two decades with an iron fist, Duterte campaigned for the presidency on a platform of shortcuts and quick fixes and on a level of gutter language in public speaking never before or since achieved. Upon his election he lost no time in herding the nation down the road to autocracy. If he caught the imagination of a plurality of the electorate, and has managed to keep it aflame, as evidenced by the polls, I could only put all that down to a meeting of pathologies.
Duterte is a clinically certified sociopath, a suferrer from "antisocial narcissistic personality disorder," and that was judicially affirmed when his wife won her marital-annulment suit against him. Without the benefit of therapy, his condition could not have improved.
As for the masses taken with him, many of them have wallowed in poverty for generations. Scarcely reached by the long-promised, overpromoted trickle-down benefits of national development, they – who certainly deserve a more munificent rate than a trickle – conceivably have grown, in their desperation, psychologically frail themselves.
And so, a mere generation after the dictator Ferdinand Marcos was booted out, and his 14-year reign of plunder and murder finally ended, they help bring a professed Marcos devotee to power. Duterte has his own following among the upper classes, to be sure, but they suffer from a different and far more shameful condition: they are only interested in the spoils.
How deeply compromised – and seriously sick – they all are, in any case, should be revealed in the midterms in May – revealed by how Duterte's candidates fare.
That vote constitutes a referendum for him. In fact, on it depend the immediate chances of him being able to fully, ultimately impose his malign will on us.
There's no excuse this time, and we're all in it together. Duterte has been revealed in his full crazed glory, and, unlike in opinion polls, we are passing judgment on him in the full secrecy of the voting booth. There, unwatched and uncoached, we can commune with ourselves; we can examine our consciences and deal with our fear and shame.
There, by more truthful numbers (unless, of course, the vote is rigged), it will become known if the nation is too far gone into its own pathology to be redeemable. – Rappler.com