The rot at the core is Dutertismo | Inquirer Opinion

The rot at the core is Dutertismo

/ 05:07 AM November 27, 2018

The last few episodes in the current season of that heartbreaking series called Philippine democracy have been harrowing. The following “Highlights” were particularly dispiriting; they gave us a close-up look at the rot eating away at the core of the democratic project.

One, the leak of large chunks of a group chat among members of the influential University of the Philippines fraternity Upsilon Sigma Phi (“lonsi” being a cloying diminutive for Upsilon, the scandal has been hashtagged #lonsileaks). This profoundly offensive scandal revealed a deep-seated antipathy among the members against women, LGBTQs, Muslims, Marcos critics, martial law victims, people of color, activists — in short, against almost everything that progressive UP is known for.


Two, the degrading state visit of the new emperor, Xi Jinping of China. Longstanding Philippine protocols were not followed; President Duterte conducted himself as his visitor’s inferior; a raft of documents were signed, some with potential constitutional issues, but were not released to the public. The insult to national dignity was deepened when a timely GMA documentary by Jun Veneracion showed Chinese coast guard harassment in the waters off Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal.

Three, the brutal murder of three members of the Ado family — the spouses Romeo and Christine and their 11-year-old child Romeo Jr. — by Caloocan policeman Jerry Antonio (as identified by the Quezon City Police District). They were killed in their sleep, allegedly because the spouses had filed a criminal complaint against Antonio. A pouch containing two sachets of shabu was allegedly found on Christine’s person, but what are the odds that this “evidence” was planted? This mass murder came on the heels of the Philippine National Police’s melodrama over its supposedly unfair portrayal in the hit TV series, “FPJ’s Ang Probinsyano.”


Four, the deployment of troops to Samar, Negros Oriental, Negros Occidental and Camarines Sur, under what Sen. Panfilo Lacson called a “baffling” memorandum order from the President. This is ostensibly to quell “lawless violence,” but necessarily raises questions about the potential expansion of the scope of martial law.

These episodes are instances of one or more of the seven No’s of Dutertismo.

Randy David was the first to use the term “Dutertismo” as shorthand for presidential candidate Rodrigo Duterte’s approach to governance. He meant that the mayor’s basic appeal to the electorate was based on projecting “the will and leadership to do what needs to be done.” The lack of policy specifics, or indeed of a program, was characteristic of that approach.

(Rereading his column two and a half years after he wrote it, I am impressed by his refusal to call Mr. Duterte a populist, and by his description of the candidate’s appeal as the “Philippine incarnation of fascism” and of Mr. Duterte himself as a fascist. I believe that critical analysis of the President’s politics today is moving away from the easy-to-use but in my view badly cracked lens of populism to fascism-as-filter.)

Last year, for a talk at a forum on civil liberties and democracy in De La Salle University, I borrowed the concept, and blogged about it. I have only lately realized that I had not yet published what I called “the 7 No’s of Dutertismo” in this space. If you will allow me:

In its fully evolved state, Dutertismo, as an ideology of power, is defined by its No’s. Appropriately enough, they number seven in all — a proper Marcosian touch.

1. No Cure: Its signature program, the campaign against drugs, was based on the notion that there was no remedy for drug addiction. Addicts cannot be rehabilitated.


2. No Innocents: This same signature program has claimed thousands of lives—including those of mere toddlers, children who were 4 or 5 years old. Each of these deaths will be justified, as necessary “collateral damage.”

3. No Rights: Constitutional safeguards, even those expressly included to make the imposition of martial law more difficult than before, will be treated as suggestions—all subsumed under the “war on drugs.”

4. No West: In Dutertismo’s ideal world, Mr. Duterte will complete the repudiation of the Americans and other Western sources of influence, in the name of an irritable nationalism.

5. No Criticism: This irritable nationalism is triggered by criticism, especially of alleged human rights violations. It will find expression in a new foreign policy dictated by the need to form alliances with those countries which will not criticize us.

6. No Truth: Dutertismo welcomes the use of “creative imagination” and “alternative facts,” because a post-truth regime makes accountability more difficult, sometimes even impossible.

7. No Limits: The be-all and end-all of Dutertismo in its mature stage is the accumulation of all power, for power’s sake. As early as August 2015, Mr. Duterte was already entertaining plans for “constitutional dictatorship.”

Reviewing these seven elements of Dutertismo, it seems clear to me that the rot at the core—the source of that stench, the corruption not only of the Philippine government but of the Filipino soul—is Dutertismo.

On Twitter: @jnery_newsstand. E-mail: [email protected]

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TAGS: Ado family massacre, China-Philippines relations, Dutertismo, John Nery, Newsstand, Rodrigo Duterte, upsilon sigma phi, Xi Jinping
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