A US-style 2022 for the Philippines?
The punishment of living through the Duterte presidency has apparently been too harsh on many Filipinos that when Joseph Biden was declared the winner of the recent US elections, they talked about “voting Duterte out in 2022.”
But Mr. Duterte is no longer allowed to run in 2022. Unless, of course, he violates the law, which really isn’t out of his style of governance. Nonetheless, we do get the hint and the objective. Imagine: a Duterte-free Philippines. Unfortunately, the US electoral system and electorate are very different from ours. I think it’s safe to say that the possibility of a nail-biting 2022 Philippine election turnaround a la Trump versus Biden is far-fetched. At the very least, it would need a lot of money—for manpower, not for buying votes—and a ton of heart.
Voting Trump out was a mission spawned on the day Hillary Clinton lost. On Day 1, the Democratic Party looked at the swing states, assessed how they could have possibly given those away to Trump in the final count, recognized how they were clearly on the losing side, and pieced themselves back together. In the next four years, they negotiated with different sectors and worked closely with grassroots communities, to ensure a formidable voter turnout to go against Trump’s solid base. Even now, with Biden’s win cemented, many in the Democratic party are not only confronting the task of “undoing the damage” Trump brought, but are looking inward at how their party gradually shed its base and alienated American progressives over the past decades. Not only that, their poor showing at the US Senate tells of a still bittersweet and unfinished win.
While American democracy is centuries older than ours, and while it remains problematic with its imperial hold over many parts of the world, including the Philippines, that democracy has also matured to develop enviable qualities. Two of these are the provision to vote presidents out (or to keep them) after four years, and a trustworthy and satisfactory electoral system. The only question now is whether, and when, Trump will finally accept defeat and turn the White House over to Biden.
On the other hand, our vague idea of an “opposition party” to President Duterte’s superalliance has not yet recovered from the 2019 elections and continues to be harassed by the administration. Without a two-party system, and without an electoral college (which many Americans themselves consider as flawed), many of us understand and fear the coming elections as yet another toss-up popularity contest that is as unsure as the weather, though somehow predictable and manipulable, or manipulable and predictable. The sequence depends on whether you’ve got friends and family in high places—in the military, in the drug syndicates, in Manila and Makati, among Marcos’ old men. And in low places too, buried underground, the dead once more used as flying voters.
Does anyone even have news as to whether Smartmatic has updated its codes? Will the same precinct count optical scan machines be used again? Is Smartmatic still reliable after all the complaints that have been flung at it? It was responsible for putting this President (and his entire 2019 senatorial slate) in power, wasn’t it?
“Voting Duterte out” is a pipe dream. But the phrase does make sense, even though it’s clear that the law does not allow the President to run again. Mr. Duterte himself says he won’t run again, but at the same time, all signs point to administration stalwarts—senators Bong Go and Imee Marcos, presidential daughter Sara Duterte, defeated vice presidential candidate Bongbong Marcos, Manila Mayor Isko Moreno, etc.—angling to extend the Duterte franchise, posturing for the President’s benediction and the public’s affection while calamities, the pandemic, corruption cases, and murders continue to beat the country senseless.
There’s simply no voting this President out. Things will remain the same—until, as in America’s case with Trump, we finally see how detrimental to the country it is for his legacy, his minions, and his brand of governance to remain powerful and influential beyond 2022.
DLS Pineda plays bass, reads books, writes, teaches, and lives a quiet life in the province. He finished his undergraduate and master’s degrees in the University of the Philippines Diliman. He is loving Gorillaz’s newest album, Song Machine.
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