Mandate of heaven

When Cory Aquino’s victory in the snap election in 1986 was dramatically confirmed by the walkout of the Commission on Elections technicians protesting the manipulation of the poll count, a young Inquirer was quick to call it the “mandate of heaven.”

In 2019, the series of earthquakes that began on April 22 would quickly be seen in the same, though more powerful, light.


Peter Manning, an immigration lawyer in the United States, was the first to say it on Facebook: “These earthquakes and volcanic eruptions are part of a sign that heaven is angry with Duterte. He has lost the Mandate of Heaven.”

Almost simultaneously, poet/professor Ramon Sunico reflected: “The Mandate of Heaven is an old Chinese belief that natural disasters are indicators of divine displeasure with a nation’s current leader and, therefore, the loss of this leader’s legitimacy.”


These casual observations are no idle talk. Indeed, how eerily those tectonic earthquakes down the length of the Philippines for three days — in Zambales, Bataan, Pampanga, Cebu, Eastern Samar, Leyte, Butuan, Davao Oriental and Occidental, Ilocos Norte — reflect the past month of political earthquakes under the Duterte regime.

Interestingly, these earthquakes on Philippine ground and sea are part of a global phenomenon, with simultaneous or closely successive earthquakes in Russia, Nepal, north-east India and Tibet, Japan, Fiji, Chile, Mexico and Canada, with earthquakes in Taiwan, Indonesia, Australia and the Philippines being the strongest.

Nor does this tectonic shake-up seem to be over, with signs of Mayon Volcano in Albay and Mount Kanlaon in Negros acting up, along with Gunung Agung in Bali.

This may well be true of the rest of the world, but in the Philippines, the near-mirror image of geological tectonics with political tectonics is truly striking.

Fact is, these earthquakes came as a battle for the truth about Mr. Duterte’s drug war reached a peak. Revelations of his and his family’s alleged intimate involvement in the drug trade weeks before crucial midterm elections could decide the fate of his administration.

Is this President, who has already killed close to 30,000 victims with impunity, in truth the biggest drug lord of them all, turning the Philippines into a narco state? That’s the question these elections seek to begin settling.

* * *


Sylvia L. Mayuga is an essayist, sometime columnist, poet, documentary filmmaker and environmentalist. She has three National Book Awards to her name.

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TAGS: 1986 snap elections, Cory Aquino, Inquirer Commentary, mandate of heaven, Rodrigo Duterte, Sylvia L. Mayuga
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