Duterte to Marcos: Reversing course

Just over a year after leaving Malacañang, former president Rodrigo Duterte is witnessing the country reverse course and pivot from his major programs, policies, and actions. Duterte is also witnessing several of his contentious moves backfire against him, and even haunt him.

First, the flagship policy of the Duterte administration was its promise to rid the country of the drug menace through its war on drugs. The Philippine National Police acknowledged that 6,000 died in its hands, but human rights organizations estimate that up to 27,000 to 30,000 fell victim to state-sponsored extrajudicial killings. Hundreds of thousands suffered from various forms of human rights violations such as illegal arrests and unlawful detention. Word on the ground is that the drug menace is back with a vengeance, showing that the war on drugs merely provided a band-aid solution but didn’t actually solve the root causes of the drug menace. While drug-related killings still persist under President Marcos, there has been a pivot from the savage violence and vicious rhetoric of Duterte.

Second, under the Duterte administration, our country made a major foreign policy pivot by spurning our long-time ally, the United States, and we embraced instead the Asian hegemon, China. The turnaround was supposedly taken to mollify and befriend China, in order for the latter to pour in huge investments in our country, allow our fishermen to fish in our exclusive economic zone, and tone down China’s hostile behavior against us in the West Philippine Sea. None of the objectives was attained. In particular, we received a pittance from the promised Chinese investments. Under the new administration, we have shifted back to our old alliance with the US.

Third, the Duterte administration trained its guns on activist and leftist groups, after its war on drugs sputtered. Extrajudicial killings, illegal arrests and detention, and threats of persecution intensified against activists and suspected communist personalities. Tens of billions of public funds were spent in anti-communists initiatives. Just recently, however, the Marcos administration has issued an amnesty to communist rebels, and has signed an agreement with the communist movement for the resumption of peace talks. This is a complete change of course from the Duterte administration’s scorched-earth policy against the communist movement. This also pulls the rug under Vice President Sara Duterte’s flagship anti-communist initiatives.

Fourth, Duterte persecuted the opposition and the independent media. He deprived then Vice President Leni Robredo of reasonable funds for her office and intermittently mistreated her. Then Sen. Leila De Lima was imprisoned on trumped-up charges. Rappler and the Philippine Daily Inquirer were harassed. The opposition was silenced with threats or its members were co-opted. Now, facing hostile moves from the Marcos administration, Duterte now complains of the absence of opposition forces with a tone of yearning for help from the opposition forces he mistreated.

Fifth, Duterte spoiled military and police forces with extravagant salaries and retirement benefits. It was viewed as Duterte’s insurance of loyalty from security forces after he left office. With the military coup he has allegedly stirred up, nipped in the bud, Duterte’s pampering of the military has failed to yield the security dividends he had expected.

Sixth, Duterte caused our country’s withdrawal from the International Criminal Court (ICC). It was a scheme to shield himself from ICC prosecution. But the withdrawal has not stopped the ICC investigation, and the current administration has turned around by announcing that it’s open to consider cooperation with the ICC. The Marcos administration is now even mulling over the possibility of rejoining the ICC.

Seventh, the Duterte administration allowed the remains of the late president Ferdinand Marcos Sr. to be buried in the Libingan ng mga Bayani. Despite protests, Duterte allowed the old man’s remains to be buried in our cemetery for our heroes. It was a long wish finally granted to the Marcos family. But the debt of gratitude engendered was canceled out by Duterte’s open contempt for the younger Marcos whom he belittled with scornful names. Unfortunately for Duterte, the old Marcos he idolized lies six feet under the ground, while the young Marcos he belittled now sits in Malacañang.

The Duterte administration’s policies and advocacies which are now being reversed or ignored by the Marcos administration share one thing in common. They were undertaken by a leader who was inebriated with power, who felt invincible, and who entertained illusions that his powers will be omnipotent even beyond his years in office. What a rude awakening it must be for him.


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