I would not dare
It has been a great season of misunderstanding, from a bruising political campaign to the new Duterte presidency. It is no surprise to me. A change in national leadership disrupts order. This is cyclical, every six years, but disruptive nonetheless. All political appointees are co-terminus. While they number only in the thousands out of over a million in the government bureaucracy, their authority and influence override the greater number. When the top officials are changed, everything can change.
Then, there is the Rodrigo R. Duterte himself. He is the new President who prefers to be still called “mayor,” and that is a story in itself. Let’s move forward to his flagship program, though, because that is what highlights the misunderstanding—domestically and internationally. By waging a war against drugs, and necessarily a war against corruption as well (the intimacy between drugs and corruption cannot be understated), Duterte leaps out of the traditional mold of governance. It is putting the nation on war footing, because he has put the police and the military on war footing in support of a war he wants to wage relentlessly.
Now, declaring a war without declaring a state of emergency will create serious misunderstanding. We are a nation of laws, or at least a nation struggling to allow laws to govern over personal interests and political partisanship. We have not done a good job at it so far, and that adds to the confusion between what is and what should be. The confusion really is more in the minds of a minority where most understand the journey to being a nation of laws. In the majority, long feeling prejudiced by laws and their application to favor the elite, whether in justice or in business, there is no confusion about their perspective.
Because there is confusion in upper society, there are debates about the actions and statements of President Duterte. Many issues protest his pronouncements about killing drug lords and pushers, even sometimes drug addicts that are seen as unredeemable. All the more, these issues are intensified by actual killings that appear to support earlier presidential statements. There seems to be very much less confusion among the vast majority, who are among the poorer economic classes popularly known as D % E. In this sector, there is high unanimity in trusting and approving of Duterte policies and actions.
A nation of laws or a nation driven by popularity? Definitely, if we go by the numbers alone, our democracy loads the dice in favor of popularity. And I do not mean only the poor but all economic sectors. Why? Because even the laws decree that leaders are elected by popular vote and not by any other criteria. Not by academic qualifications, not by nobility of character, not by a track of performance. Only those below 18 and those disqualified to run for office by some previous conviction are not allowed to run for public office, or be appointed to one. Popularity wins hands down.
Why, then, would popularity not win hands down in governance as well? And is not Duterte the most popular figure in the Philippines today?
Does that popularity make him right? Not necessarily, but it gets the majority to support him, and that majority gets House of Representatives and the Senate to support the President as well. Only the Judiciary can put up valiant resistance, if at all. It’s only a matter of time anyway before the majority of Justices will have been appointed by this President. From popularity to majority to legality. That’s the name of the game, like it or not.
Opposition to Duterte or any of his policies will continue. That is the nature of life, that one cannot please everybody. But the opposition will have to learn to see their points of view overruled, time and again, for as long as popularity favors the President.
The greater challenge, though, is not for those who oppose Duterte, but for Duterte himself. Popularity can be very fickle. And a man of intensity, or stubbornness, can become a man of arrogance. There is only a thin line between being relentless and being blind. This is Duterte’s greatest obstacle – himself. But that is par for the course for leaders of awesome potential, for persons whom destiny lays out a special path for unparalleled achievement of terrible ignominy.
At the moment, I can clearly see what the President must be seeing, too, if I am to believe his public statements. There are 700,000 surrenderees among drug dependents and pushers, but there are another 3 million out there. If we are to assume that one drug dependent or pusher belongs to one family as well, 3.7 million families are directly affected by a horrible disease. The disease is not evil but can cause evil, and no one knows when the line will be crossed from disease to evil. 3.7 families is 20% of the total population of Filipino families. That is an epidemic, a pandemic, either of disease or evil.
If ever I had fantasies about the presidency, if ever I had played in my mind what I would do if I were President of the Philippines, I would refuse to give in to that fantasy or imagination today. And that is only because I can imagine what it can be like if I had to protect everyone from a disease or evil that can kill a free nation itself. I can imagine the super structure of supply catering to the demand, and the corruption it has already established in order for that massive an industry to have flourished to this level today. I can imagine policemen and soldiers, mayors, governors, congressmen, and senators on the take, judges and Justices on the take. And I would not know how to cut this Gordian knot except by killing and instilling the fear of death in the hearts of the evil ones.
I don’t like killing, not even the thought of it. So, I will just let Duterte do his job as I do mine.