A counterrevolution to Edsa
No army can withstand the strength of an idea whose time has come.” Victor Hugo’s words come to mind as we wonder at the consistently high approval rating of President Duterte.
Consider these negatives: In any country in the world, when the economy tanks, public support for the leader drops. Then there’s the Pharmally scandal involving Mr. Duterte’s close associates in Davao; the COVID-19 pandemic that placed the Philippines last in Asia in vaccinating its citizens, and the continuing rights violations in the country. All these have not affected the President’s high public approval, which has been transferred to the Ferdinand Marcos, Jr.-Sara Duterte tandem, and is now reflected in their big lead in poll surveys.
A possible explanation: Mr. Duterte is leading a counterrevolutionary wave. The Bolshevik Vladimir Lenin had expounded on the thesis that revolutions come in waves. Based on this, what we are witnessing now is a reverse of the 1986 snap election when “plain housewife” Corazon “Cory” Aquino handily won against a seasoned politician. Terminating the dictatorship is an idea whose time has come in 1986. What we may be witnessing now is the reverse of 1986, with people turning against Edsa and its unfulfilled promises.
The great revolutions of modern times have ruthless enforcers who did not hesitate to use terror to push the goals of the revolution. The French Revolution of 1789 had François Robespierre, the Russian Revolution of 1917 had the trio of Vladimir Lenin, Lev Trotsky, and Joseph Stalin, while the Chinese Revolution of 1949 had Mao Tse Tung. They all used terror to overthrow the governments and, once in power, continued a reign of terror using the instruments of government.
Edsa did not have a ruthless enforcer to implement its goals. The Cory Aquino government is thus akin to the Alexander Kerensky government run by the Cadets in 1917 Russia, who actually ousted the Tsarist regime. But the Cadet government lasted only eight months before it was overthrown by the Bolsheviks. Revolutions always beget a counterrevolution. The only issue is when it would come. One can thwart this development by ruthlessly exterminating all potential opponents using the instruments of the state, but the Cadets did not do this against the Bolsheviks.
Mr. Duterte is a counterrevolutionary. From the moment he assumed power in 2016, it was evident that his aim was to undo Edsa, taking shortcuts to undermine a rules-based society with his drug war and disregard for human rights as well as the rehabilitation of the Marcos image that culminated in the dictator’s burial in a hero’s cemetery. Mr. Duterte also displayed ruthless use of the powers of government to terrorize opposition forces, as evidenced by the cases of Sen. Leila de Lima, former chief justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, and the denial of an ABS-CBN franchise, among other coercive actions. Laws were “constructively interpreted” to go after perceived enemies of the state.
Marcos Jr., who benefited from the counterrevolutionary wave, will similarly work for the restoration of an ancient and discredited regime. This should be the thrust of his opponents’ election campaign.
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Hermenegildo C. Cruz is a career ambassador with 32 years of service in the Department of Foreign Affairs. He has a graduate degree with a cognate field in Political Development and Institutions. During his foreign assignments, he witnessed two historic transitions of power: the transition from communist to democratic rule in the defunct Soviet Union, and the transfer of power in Chile from the dictator Augusto Pinochet to the democrat Patricio Aylwin.