Long before the elections, longer than even the campaign period, Rodrigo Duterte has always been the darling of the OFW community. From the moment his name got floated around as a possible candidate, Filipinos from all over the globe flocked to his banner.
Mostly on social media, fan-pages and groups started forming practically overnight. All clamoring for the same thing – Run, Rody, Run! Back then, in what feels like a lifetime ago, the future President of the Philippines was vehement about his unwillingness to run. And the OFW community was just as stubborn in their calls for him to take the plunge.
When the deadline for filing came and went, some of Duterte’s supporters in the Philippines started looking for a new champion. But not the OFWs and Filipinos living abroad. They cried, they argued, they shouted, they fought for the man they wanted to lead them. They continued to hold the candle high, fanning the fading flames of hope with their common desire to see a better Philippines. With their common goal of pushing Duterte to run.
It has been almost 100 days since that fateful moment when the dream of many OFWs came to fruition and Rodrigo Roa Duterte, their idol, was inaugurated as the 16th President of the Republic. And for most of them the magic still remains. Despite the noisome minority who do nothing but complain, the greater sentiment is still one of hope for a better future.
Perhaps it is being away from the country that they love, being exposed to a thousand different cultures, of being separated from their loved ones that gives the OFWs a new perspective on the Philippines and Duterte.
Perhaps it is watching their homeland go to hell in a hand-basket because of the incompetence and outright criminal intent of past leaders that makes them embrace the unorthodox, but very sincere leadership style of Duterte.
Perhaps it is having to sacrifice so much for their families to have a better life, and worrying day and night about some criminal taking it all away that makes them long for the strong protective hands of a true father to our nation.
Or maybe it’s just a genuine desire for change, a search for some other solution than the ones offered by the same people who time and again have let the nation down. Let it down so bad that Filipinos have had to endure years of hardship in another country, just to provide for their families.
Whatever it is that made the OFWs support Duterte, the rest of the country owe them a debt of gratitude for staying the course. While their votes may be small compared to the total 16 million who voted for Duterte, it was their diligence on social media that kept the campaign alive and afloat during the darkest times. They were the Facebook army that the other candidates feared. Those who they accused of being paid trolls and bots, those whose voices and angry comments they still refuse to acknowledge as coming from real people fed up with the system.
Even until now, they remain the most vocal, the most supportive, the most active supporters of the President. And in the coming months, with the local and international media churning out negative story after negative story about Duterte and the Philippines, they will once again find themselves in the front lines of the campaign. And just like in the last, we know that we can rely on them to raise their voices and lead the charge for Duterte and a better Philippines.