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Politics

The Duterte Phenomenon Oct 21, 2015

The Duterte Phenomenon

The Law-Abiding and the Law Breaker
When Secretary of Justice, Leila de Lima, went live with her ranting on the lawlessness of Davao mayor, Rodrigo Duterte, the public was quick to unleash its fury on her...despite her adherence to law and order, and more surprisingly, despite Duterte's openly public stance on arbitrary execution of known criminals. More than anything else, this underscores the public's hopelessness and frustration against the abject failure of the system to bring about justice and fairness. There is a huge public clamor for Duterte to run for president despite his clear refusal to assume such public office. I call this the Duterte Phenomenon. What's with it?

Who is Rodrigo Duterte
In case you're not from the Philippines, you may not know Duterte. Who is he? He used to be prosecutor of Davao City until he became mayor for a few terms. As prosecutor, he made his name as a crime fighter. As mayor, he made his name as judge, jury and executioner of the criminal elements in society. The bad guys (drug dealers, rapists, criminals, etc.) simply ended up dead in some street corner - no court hearing, no trial, no arrests. This was welcomed by the people of Davao. Davao used to be run by crime lords, drug lords and thugs. Now, after his stamp on Davao, the city is noted to be one of the safest cities in the world. I personally vouch for that, having spent many months in Davao.

Duterte for President
With the presidential election on the horizon, someone started a campaign for Duterte for president. It snowballed and became a hugely popular nationwide clamor despite Duterte's clear refusal not to be interested for the office, saying it's no longer his time, being 70 years old and his whole family adamantly against the idea. The more he said no, the more the public persisted for him to run. Of course, it's his life and he has all the right to say No.

Why Duterte Should Run
In my humble opinion, it would be too selfish for him not to run. How often does it happen that someone is catapulted into the presidency by public demand? Candidates often cheat, lie, steal and even kill, just to become president, even with public distrust.

How often does it happen that a person with a proven track record for keeping order in an undisciplined country be in this pivotal position to effect meaningful social change? Duterte has spent nearly his entire life in preparation for this moment. How could he possibly lay in front of the all this and turn his back on this historical fork on the road?

A Ray of Hope
Personally, I am a supporter of Duterte. I feel safe in Davao. In a country where crime is high and police enforcement is lax and dismally inefficient (as most cops are corrupt and lazy), people hardly report crimes to the police anymore. People regard politicians and cops as scourge of society who cannot be trusted. Then Duterte came into the picture. Suddenly, people saw hope.

Presidential Timbers
Among the roster of presidential candidates, the choice seems to be electing not the best qualified person for the job, but simply choosing the least evil - a dismal benchmark we have all succumbed to. They all seem to represent continuity of the status quo without any meaningful change. In the words of Michael Douglas as Gordon Gecko in the movie Wall Street, "same dog, different fleas". They'll do their election song-and-dance number, get elected, and at the end of their term, the poor still remains poor.

  • Mar Roxas - He could do some superficial limited good, but definitely not what you would call presidential caliber. He belongs to the oligarchs who have institutionalized the current social status quo. Besides, who would want his wife, Korina Sanches to be First Lady?
  • Grace Poe - She is riding high on the goodwill of her late-father, the screen legend, Fernando Poe Jr., who was cheated out of the presidency by then corrupt-president and human-rights abuser, Gloria Arroyo. Poe comes across as honest (which has been proven enough to get a person elected for president in this country...an utterly low benchmark if that is all), but has she done anything noteworthy? Nothing really. Her buckling down amid the Iglesia ni Kristo traffic gridlock demonstrated a weak and wavering political resolve. How can she stand up to China when she can't even stand against a group of religious rallyists blatantly snarling city traffic?
  • Bongbong Marcos - Although just running for VP this time, Bongbong made it very clear that his political ambition is to be president. He even sounded as though the presidency is his birth right! The crime of the Marcoses against the Filipino people is already a matter of public record. I don't have to reiterate the lies, torture and plunder they imposed on the nation during the traumatic years of martial law. I cannot and will not understand how the public could possibly want another Marcos in Malacanang.

    Here are international links about Ferdinand Marcos

    (which the revisionist Marcos media machinery cannot influence or bribe)
  • Binay - His corruption permeates deep down to the core. His family who are in public office throw their weight around the country like European nobility. The Dasmarinas Incident when the son employed his bodyguards to intimidate the security guards of the subdivision at gun point is a blatant example. Again, I cannot understand why he remains to have supporters when he should be in jail.
  • Miriam Santiago - She's feisty! I'll give her credit for that. She is not intimidated by bullies like Enrile. She's smart too. But I question the balance of her mind. Also, her overnight pendulum swing from harsh critic to loyalist to then-president Arroyo make me question her integrity.

Apprehensive Thoughts
Despite my being a Duterte fan, I have my own apprehension about him becoming president.

  • economy - I know he is an effective crime fighter - which makes him a good PNP Chief perhaps. But president? What about the bigger picture? What about the economy? How is Davao's economy? Can we miror that to be the country's economic landscape if he becomes president?
  • sheriff incident - it wasn't him but his daughter who was then mayor, Sarah Duterte. On video, she was seen punching the sheriff who was only doing his job, evicting squatters following a court order. The public has looked the other way when a crime lord is killed. The public has given them their trust that the Dutertes will not abuse that power. Although there was good reason for Sarah to be upset, her action crossed the line.
  • rule of law - It took me some time to come to terms with this. Yes, what about rule of law? This is a democratic country and we must embrace the rule of law. But realistically, where is the rule of law if you see corrupt cops and corrupt politicians being on the take? Where is rule of law when criminals go unpunished because they can pay their way out of crime? At least with Duterte, you can be assured that even with no rule of law, justice is still served. If not court justice, it's street justice. That's good enough for me.
  • Arroyo and Marcos - Duterte flatly said in an interview that if he becomes president, he will exonerate human rights violator and plunderer Gloria Arroyo. Duterte will even give Ferdinand Marcos a hero's burial. Perhaps, this is the reddest of all the red flags. How this comes across is this - on top of getting rid of the bad guys, Duterte will also get rid of everyone who goes against him which includes legitimate protesters, political opponents, people who simply think differently from him. This is scary.

Revolutionary Government
I was still a fence sitter about Duterte until I saw this interview which tipped the scale for me. On TV, he said that even if he becomes president, he may not be effective since the system itself is flawed. I agree. But then, he continued by saying that if he finds he cannot be effective fulfilling his mandate to the people, then he will call upon the people for a referendum for a Revolutionary Government. That tells me he gets it - he knows the problem. Effectively, the judiciary and the legislature will be abolished giving him absolute powers to implement whatever change he needs to happen. I know. This is scary. Damn scary. We have all seen what the Marcoses did to the nation when he wielded absolute power. But it seems the only way to really implement meaningful change in a flawed system ruled by oligarchs - which includes jailing people who are above the law (high ranking military officials, corrupt government officials, wealthy businessmen with unscrupulous business practices). For now, I ask myself if Duterte has already earned that trust for absolute power. As the saying goes, absolute power corrupts absolutely. Just a thought hanging on my head. But I would take that leap of faith that he'll do the right thing.

Ending Thoughts
In the nine months I have traveled Southeast Asia covering 6 countries, I have seen other systems at work. Despite our fluency in English, our rich natural resources and the innate intelligence of the Filipino people (in my parlance, "mas clever pa sa daga ang Pinoy"), we are left behind. We export our educated to take menial jobs overseas. In heated debates following international incidents, we have been labeled a slave nation by the Taiwanese, people of Hong Kong and the Singaporeans. But why? We did not suffer a 40-year war like Vietnam. We did not lose 20% of the most brilliant and educated people in our population like Cambodia (in the genocidal purge of the Khmer Rouge). We were at the same level as Singapore was in the late 1950s. So why have we become Asian's door mat? I put the blame squarely on our politicians - for deliberately keeping the public ignorant and poor!

With our current crop of candidates, I only see them offering a band-aid solution to our deeply entrenched problems they themselves have created or parasited themselves into. I don't see Duterte as a solution to all of that, but at least he seems to be the only candidate with a meaningful reform system to offer - with a proven track record to wit. In my 'kapit sa patalim' headspace, I will gamble my vote on him.

--- TheLoneRider

p.s. - This is not a paid campaign for Duterte. I don't even know him personally. These are my words.


Rodrigo Duterte Blogs on TheLoneRider

Political Statements by TheLoneRider

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Great Things Going for Davao City

  • one of the cleanest potable water in the country
  • smoking is banned from commercial establishments
  • pineapple samurais are endemic here and nowhere else in the country (pineapple vendors who cut-up whole pineapples into chunks with just a few strokes of their carving knives)
  • public utility drivers conspicuously display their IDs
  • durian Mecca of the Philippines (not to mention Marang, Mangosteen and Sweet Pomelo)
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Not So Great Things Going Against Davao City

  • the weighing scale of fruit vendors specially the durian push cart vendors are a blatant cheat - showing almost twice the actual weight

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The following people like this:

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Reader Comments:

Jessie Villabona SeverinoJessie Villabona Severino
(Oct 21, 2015) A strong president or an empowered citizenry? Your choice.

TheLoneRiderTheLoneRider
"A strong president or an empowered citizenry? Your choice." -- Jessie Severino
(Oct 21, 2015) I could not agree more with you for an empowered citizenry, Jessie. That would be ideal. In the US, there is Senator Bernie Sanders, who empowers the middle class and campaigns to restore values back in America. In Cambodia, an emergent leader, Veasna Khem (also a Vipassana meditator), travels from village to village preaching empowerment to the people. Unfortunately, such leaders have not emerged yet in our country. What we do have is a benevolent leader with a proven track record to restore order. In the meantime, we can empower ourselves by casting our vote to the most competent person for president. Thank you for your input. It is always appreciated.

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Oct 21, 2015

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