Death by Duterte
In 2016, partisans often used Davao City as “Exhibit A” to rationalize their choice of Rodrigo Duterte as president. And always, they missed out on one important criterion of democratic choice — accountability. Five Dutertes in power effectively erased accountability in Davao City, where criticism is de facto prohibited. Even today, the family controls critics by monitoring media. The result is a media that has largely chosen to remain silent, if not pliant or for sale.
The Duterte demeanor in the national stage is that of a man who basks in entitlement, because this is what Davao City’s culture of silence has accustomed him to.
Trolls navigated us to the mentality that if you are against Mr. Duterte, you are “dilawan.” It is a fake dichotomy. A good number of us were vociferous in our opposition to the last Aquino regime. A writer friend puts it hyperbolically: If one is for Mr. Duterte, he is labeled a pervert. If one is a Duterte critic, he is called a hypocrite.
This is what we must lament: By replicating his Lilliputian Davao on the national arena, Mr. Duterte has killed citizen vigilance for public office as a public trust.
Mr. Duterte’s rise was premised on the failures of his predecessor. The irony is that Mr. Duterte is replicating the same political processes done by the last Aquino. Aquino was selective in extracting justice for his friends who turned out to be corrupt officials. Alan Purisima was one glaring example.
Aquino abused the vast powers of the presidency to unseat a sitting chief justice of the Supreme Court out of personal spite, mobilizing money to reward jurors who voted to impeach. It was corruption plain and simple. The reprise we saw with Maria Lourdes Sereno was merely a pattern began by Aquino and rehashed by Mr. Duterte.
As with Aquino’s time and his predecessors, we have a legislature of pretenders who kid themselves that they are independent. This time, we have an equally bastos House Speaker who acts like a little Duterte. Turncoat senators, as before, act like untouchables. Cynthia Villar had no good graces lashing out at a critic who pointed out Vista Land’s leveling of a hill in Boracay. But it is us who pay her salary and that of her son, who is public works secretary and whose wife is in Congress.
What gives? We know it comes in the form of the pork barrel Aquino never abolished, now exceedingly higher under Mr. Duterte.
Mr. Duterte added trauma to what was already a fragile democracy.
When people cheer for misogyny and extrajudicial killings, we have lost all sense of basic respect and of rule of law. When people cheer at the President mocking the Bible, freedom of conscience is acceptably thrown out the window. When the public believes in the charade that crime under Mr. Duterte has been wiped out even if the real demographic data say otherwise, our days as thinking individuals have ended.
If there is no outrage over China’s colonization of territory that clearly belongs to us, something is wrong with our patriotism. When there is no indignation at Bong Go’s expensive pretensions of “not running” for the Senate, we have sunk into idiocy. When we are about to elect another hubris-stricken dynast like Sara Duterte for national office, we have lost all attempts at political maturity.
We have a bureaucracy where favored appointees with a whiff of corruption are fired but rehired, rewarding dishonesty and treating public service as garbage. When the din for the P6.5-million shabu scandal dies down and Pulong Duterte’s dragon tattoo is cast into oblivion—because obviously it was manipulated to be cast into oblivion—then something is wrong with our notions of public office.
And when Filipino fishermen pay “tong” to the Chinese Coast Guard who seize their catch in our Bajo de Masinloc, and the public is silent, we are creating orphans of our poor toilers.
We are now a damaged culture. If not on death throes, we are now six feet below the ground. It will take decades to reincarnate ourselves from the dead—this land politically abused under years of bad governance, and now under a promise of change meant only to bait Filipinos into wrong thinking.
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