“One of the recurrent themes in my books is the importance of paying a price for your dreams. But to what extent can our dreams be manipulated? For the past few decades, we have lived in a culture that privileged, fame, money, power—and most people were led to believe that these were the real values that they were to pursue.”
From the Foreword of The Winner Stands Alone by Paulo Coelho
THE title of this column today is quite intriguing. Why should Mayor Duterte and President Noy be Siamese twins? Well, from the political point of view, they are. There are a number of commonalities in their statements, promises and behavioral patterns.
They are both trapos
Mayor Duterte and President Noy are both trapos, meaning traditional politicians in the sense they were elected by popular vote. Originally, Duterte was elected as mayor of Davao City and, later, as congressman in the city’s first district. Noy was elected as congressman in the second district of Tarlac province and, later, as senator.
They were both elected President by impressive electoral majorities. In the case of Duterte, he rode on the avalanche of disgust of the people against graft and corruption as well as criminality. With Noy, he rode on the popularity of his mother, President Cory, and a similar plank against graft and corruption. Noy made popular two slogans of his campaign—Matuwid na Daan (Straight Path) and Walang Mahirap Kung Walang Korap (There are no poor people if there are no corrupt ones, or there is no poverty if there is no corruption.)
Well, Noy’s performance negates his bold commitments. In the more impressive words in Tagalog: Tinimbang ngunit kulang (He was weighed but found wanting). In so far as the straight path is concerned—eradicating poverty and corruption—he is a total and dismal failure. The question arises: What about the straight path? Well, the path was straight but it was not a straight path to the Promised Land; it was a straight path to perdition—Hell!
The slight redeeming element for Noy, in respect to graft and corruption, is to file cases against President Gloria MA and Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada and Bong Revilla. But it’s only up to there. Everything else is rendered negative by selective justice—his Cabinet secretaries who are in deep shit are having a nice walk in the park without any case filed against them.
In the case of Mayor Duterte, he cannot be judged on his promises. First, he is not yet President. Second, there is still no basis to determine how far he would go on his promises on terminating graft and corruption as well as criminality in six months from his assumption of office. But this is not an easy task to do, especially because he has already reneged on his promise to declare a revolutionary government the moment he gets elected President.
Noy has his KKK—kafamilia, kabarilan, kaibigan, kaklase, kabarkada, kapartido, kabaklaan, at iba pa. The KKK of Noy was the source in the conscription of Cabinet secretaries, other top-level officials, advisers and co-conspirators in the Noy syndicates. In the case of Duterte, he has the Davao City Connection or Mafia in the choice of government officials and advisers. It is very tradpol, but it does not mean that the approach is wrong. It is traditionally normal—you must surround yourself with people of your trust and confidence.
But while doing it, it is not quite appropriate for Duterte to claim that they are all honest and with integrity. Many of them work with government in the past. Such claim can be punctured by the history of their performance. The past can be ignored if their performance can negate the past. In this respect, only time will tell the moment they assume office.
Both Duterte and Noy are obviously vindictive—in words and in practice. I don’t have to amplify on this point. The evidence is so obvious and overwhelming. It is too late to remind Noy what US President JFK said a long time ago: “In politics, there are no permanent friends or enemies, there are only permanent interests.” In my vocabulary, the only permanent interests are God and country—no more, no less. With Duterte, it may not be too late for him to learn from JFK, since he has not yet taken his oath. He should remember that life and government are a learning process because none of us could ever be God; we can only ambition to be god in Olympus in small letters.
The boss is the people
When Noy became President, he said that his boss was the people—a collective. Duterte and his boys assert that their boss is the people—not family, friends and contributors. But Noy never observed his declaration—he took the people for a bus ride. His boss was not the people; he used the people as his bus.
In the case of Duterte, he claims that he is only beholden to the people who gave him an overwhelming and stunning endorsement. But in the choice of his official family, he does not appear to have consulted the people for their views. So that makes him a Siamese twin of Noy.
It is apparent that both of them are impervious to advice. They are both Lola—whatever Lola wants, Lola gets. Well, the presidency and the people are more complicated than the lines of Lola’s song. Listening to oneself only could be very destructive, especially on the level of the presidency
‘In defeat defiance, in victory magnanimity’
The line “in defeat defiance, in victory magnanimity” is attributed to the great Napoleon Bonaparte. It is packed with words of wisdom. France shamed Germany in the armistice by dictating onerous and despicable conditions after Germany’s defeat in the First World War. What did the French suffer as a result of their shaming Germany? They got a rampaging German Army that devastated France during the Second World War.
When US President Abraham Lincoln defeated the Confederate forces during the American Civil War, he gave Robert Lee, the commanding general of the Confederate Army, an honorable reception and an honorable peace. That’s magnanimity in victory on the level of action. It is that kind of action that makes for greatness.
With Noy, he was never magnanimous to his perceived enemies. He hounded the late former chief justice Renato Corona like Javert hounding Jean Valjean. Corona died with so much pain in his heart for the great injustice that ended with his impeachment.
In Duterte’s case, he shows that he does not know the meaning of magnanimity. He bombarded the Catholic Church with unending thermonuclear detonations. He kept on issuing a warning to Sen. Trillanes and his perceived enemies.
If he continues doing things like Noy, I am afraid that failure is waiting for him around the corner. The country is not Davao City. It is more complicated with many intertwining interests. Besides, his words are not enough to dominate this country.
As Marshal Ney told the great Napoleon once, “Sire, there are those who are born to command and there are those who are born to obey. I was not born to obey.” It may serve well for Duterte to know that in this country there are many Marshal Neys.