Citizen Digong or Kingmaker Rody
Come June 30, 2022, President Duterte, or “Tatay” Digong to his sycophants, will step down to become “Citizen” Digong.
True to his characteristic tough-talking style, Mr. Duterte had earlier expressed on national television how he wished to kill at least three more drug lords before he steps down as president. He also said sorry for not being able to address the drug problem during his six-year term. Yet, his “war on drugs” was the centerpiece of his administration.
To recall, Mr. Duterte promised to solve the “drug problem” within three months of his term. But until now, as he is about to exit the presidency, the illegal drug trade has persisted, albeit more clandestinely than before. In the past as in the present, the illegal drug business is part of a complicated network of illegal economies that not only survive but also thrive in weak or poorly governed states. The weaknesses of our national and local regulatory mechanisms, in confluence with other governance deficits, have become incubators for hidden, illicit, yet lucrative economies. Huge returns from such illegal businesses are enough to make the ordinary police officer patrolling the streets, the regional police official, and national high-level security actors turn a blind eye and zip their mouths on this illicit trade that has snuffed out the lives of thousands, including children.
Now that he will soon become Citizen Digong, he said the police force he used to claim as his own might no longer honor him, or even salute him, since he will become a “nobody” after June 30. And this, he concludes, is “how democracy works.” (Go figure out what he means by this.)
All reports about the Duterte presidency, and the many foul words and invectives he has habitually spewed over the course of his term, will leave a rather dark, colorful mark in our political history. Saying that he will just be a “nobody” after his term ends is hypocrisy—he will not just be anybody or a nobody after his term. He is Citizen Digong, the one who, as a sitting president, had left indelible imprints, mostly unpleasant, about many issues relating to our daily lives as we faced one disaster after another; as we were all debilitated by COVID-19; as we witnessed how some sacrosanct governance guidelines have been twisted to favor his allies, especially the family of the presumptive president. Mr. Duterte will not be an ordinary citizen—he will forever be remembered for the many insensitive and misogynistic remarks that are punishable under the law he himself approved, such as Republic Act No. 11313 or the “Bawal Bastos” law of 2021 that ensures safe spaces for women. Most of all, he will go down in Bangsamoro history as the one who ordered the five-month military assault on Marawi City, just so the few ragtag Maute group can be eliminated after that. It was overkill; it was an “invasion of a different kind,” according to one Maranaw civil society leader. It was like killing one rat by burning the whole house.
Just recently, Mr. Duterte has enjoined elected mayors to become good in their job as local chief executives, and to do this, he said, “you should know how to kill.” Hearing this from him reminds me of the powerful queen dowagers in Korean historical telenovelas. In many historical dramas, the mothers of kings are usually the powerful regents behind the throne; they dictate who gets killed or eliminated in the struggle to ascend the powerful throne of the king.
Already, we are seeing some possibilities for a role similar to that played by the Korean dynasty’s queen dowager role, such as kingmaker, for Mr. Duterte. In the recent past, during the campaign period, he has repeatedly criticized the presumptive president for being a “weak leader.” He has even made snide remarks about him as a substance abuser. And since the presumptive vice president is his daughter, Sara, it is not so remotely impossible that as ex-president, Mr. Duterte will assert his paternal authority over Sara, and heaven forbid, create a scenario to crown her the next president.
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