Hard lessons from Duterte’s decline
The function of criticism isn’t just to tell government it’s wrong; it’s for the citizen to assert his/her status as a stakeholder. It isn’t just freedom of expression; it’s self-government.”
The erudite Florin Hilbay is correct. But how do we assert ourselves as citizens before mediocre dynastic politicians who take advantage of the Filipinos’ poor sense of self-government?
Recently, the seriously disquieting movie “Goyo: Ang Batang Heneral” (one of the greatest Filipino movies of all time, I must venture) asked questions that disturb our sense of contemporary politics. We create a cycle that repeats each time we choose those who govern us. We begin with deification, and end with demonization.
“Goyo” explains it in an agonizing piece of dialogue that takes place in the pathos of torment. The character of Manuel Bernal, tortured because he was identified with the massacred Gen. Antonio Luna, taunts his persecutor, the boy general
Gregorio del Pilar: Our difference is you are faithful to your idol. We are faithful to principle.
Bernal, eventually murdered by the men of Goyo, was correct: We choose leaders through idolatry. As idolaters, we debase ourselves to ignorance, because our choice rests on a mirage that mystifies the morality of the leaders we choose.
In the run-up to the 2016 elections, not many bothered to find out who Rodrigo Duterte was. A multimedia citizen journalism outfit had, in fact, warned us by way of scrupulous research through Mr. Duterte’s record as lawmaker in the House of Representatives. He represented the first district of Davao City in the 11th Congress from 1998 to 2001, running under the Laban ng Makabayang Masang Pilipino (LAMMP)/PDP-Laban, the opposition coalition that brought Joseph Estrada to the presidency.
Archival records of the House give critically revealing statistics about Mr. Duterte the congressman. Take note: Let the records speak for themselves, not our pro- or anti-bias for the man.
His attendance in floor deliberations for bill readings and committee conferences (he was a member of five House committees) was — hold your jaw now — zero.
In that 11th Congress, legislators filed an average of more than a hundred measures. Mr. Duterte filed only 65 bills, 18 House resolutions, and one joint House resolution.
He authored 11 House bills; of that number, only one was enacted into law. This was Republic Act No. 8969 that — get ready for this — declared every third Friday of August a special holiday in Davao City.
Journals from the House’s archives also showed Mr. Duterte’s silence during sessions. He wasn’t heard raising motions.
Of a total roll call of 163 sessions for bill votations, Mr. Duterte was present in only 98. Of 19 sessions without a roll call, he was nowhere seen in Congress. An Inquirer report subsequently quoted Mr. Duterte as saying he was either watching movies or malling.
His absence totaled 87 sessions. He was present in only 58 percent of the total sessions.
We all know by now that Mr. Duterte took the congressional route because he had then fully served three terms as city mayor. The skip is classic of traditional politicians; after one term in Congress, they return to local government. It is a standard circumvention of the Constitution done by dynastic “trapos” who wish to reign forever and ever. And yet, such mediocrity eluded the critical thinking of 16 million voters in 2016.
Rodrigo Duterte was deified in that election. His decline, which may have already begun, will surely end up in his demonization. It is an unnecessary progression for a nation that reels in divisiveness. Had we chosen our government by looking beyond names, we would not be under this mirage today, as the administration slowly and excruciatingly unravels with Mr. Duterte’s bungling of the presidential office, his hubris and his amoral governance.
For the free publicity he gives to Sen. Antonio Trillanes out of piqued hatred for the senator, let us remember to hold Trillanes accountable for principles, instead of deifying him, too — lest we remain stuck in the vicious cycle of idolatry.
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