The Duterte Effect: When Idolatry Becomes Too Much

The Philippines finally got a good chance at becoming one of the fastest growing countries in Asia. Surveys show that crime rates are lower — though International Courts have questioned the legitimacy — and the economy is seen as booming. And just recently, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte was named one the most powerful men in the world.

Many Filipinos could agree to that. Yes, he is able to reduce graft and corruption, he was able to topple over drug dens and he was able to close Boracay for six months in a snap even if it would generate millions to the country’s tourism industry. Maybe he really is powerful. Too powerful that he has influenced people mentally too.

What He Does, They Fad About

Maybe he really is the type of President that could bring the Philippines to the brim and make other cultures see the Filipinos as their equal.

We have seen Duterte’s power politically and we can no longer question that. He is even able to handshake North Korea’s Kim Jong-Un and caught Russia’s Putin’s awe. But if there is anything that could make us admire him more, it is the way he supposedly keeps his feet on the ground: he sees himself as a government employee only and not a powerful man.

The Duterte Effect

Nonetheless, not all media channels point out negatives in him. No leader is perfect but some supporters just won’t accept that.

If you would remember, there was some brawl between Duterte and one media outlet that he confirmed as his enemy. This organization was eventually banned from covering politically-affiliated events and from stepping foot on Malacañang Palace for a time. One Court Justice he also labeled as such was recently ousted from Office. And the followers? They started maligning and questioning the credibility of these entities because Duterte did not like them.

We are not saying that Duterte incites hatred among citizens, but what we can see is this: he is straightforward and he tells who he hates publicly. He doesn’t care about a good public image, he is the bad boy and that divergence form the norm makes his followers love him more. And whoever he despises, they hate, too. He unconsciously influenced the lives of many people who he is not even familiar with. Moreover, this domino effect is not just happening among citizens without political background but has even affected politically-related persons as well.

The Worship Syndrome

Psychologists can call this as worship syndrome. At the right level, this causes positive influence among fans but could be destructive otherwise.

Psychologists term these celebrities as “familiar strangers” who can bring hope and the feeling of belonging among followers. However, too much idolatry may cause disruptive behavior and hostility to the point of isolation. Bullying others, even. No wonder, whenever there are untoward incidents that would circulate in social media, instead of citizens reacting to correct the wrong doings, or to explain a concept so different parties can better understand each other, they would just cheer and justify the bad behavior and point out the differences among groups. They would emphasize characteristics that make their group better than others.

The result? Instead of unifying a race, the worship syndrome promotes disagreement. Now, considering that this is what is happening, can we really live up to what is expected from us? Can he? Emerge victorious from being a third-world country that attempted strength, peace, and prosperity?

The answer lies to what extent we allow our “worship” of politicians get in our heads.

About Patricia Abrihan

Patricia has always been inspired by the witty yet innocent voice of Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird that she believes that writing is able to revolutionize ideas of society. She is a former college instructor from the Philippines and is currently a freelance writer and blogger managing her portfolio. She is open to collaboration and also loves reading and watching movies.

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