• Can we avoid a Duterte dictatorship?


    The coming change
    EVEN before Mayor Rodrigo Duterte’s official proclamation as “President-elect,” which was due to happen today, his promise of “change” has already begun to unfold. But the “coming change” seems surprisingly different from what was promised by the just-concluded electoral process or imagined by his most ardent supporters. His approach to his constitutional presidency has a distinctly authoritarian character, and it seems to come closest to what the Israeli philosopher Jacob Leib Talmon calls “totalitarian democracy.” This seems enough to cause many of his most rabid supporters some precious hours of sleep.

    Not everyone may have heard of Talmon or his work. But it is fairly well discussed among academics. I refer to it simply to lend some academic classification to the emerging political puzzler, although to a non-academic observer like me, “totalitarian democracy” is nothing but an oxymoron—a combination of words with contradictory meanings. On the basis of what we have heard and are hearing from Mr. Duterte and his evolving entourage, I believe “totalitarian,” “dictatorial,” or “despotic” would suffice to describe the political organism that seems to be shaping up.

    First of all, everything seems to be coming from out of the box—from the way Mr. Duterte will dress for or speak in his inaugural, to what social and political forces he’ll work with, to what aspects of human life he’ll want to control and dictate, etc. No conventions or precedents are sacred. “This is what I want; I don’t want a debate. I want your obedience, not your opinion or your consent.” This is what strikes the average listener, hopefully incorrectly, as he listens to the presumptive President-elect.

    Coalition govt with the Left
    For starters, Mr. Duterte has decided to set up a coalition government with the Left. The decision may have been secretly considered by the candidate before the election, or discussed between him and the leaders of the CPP/NPA/NDF, but until he announced it recently, the public knew absolutely nothing about it—he never said he would do anything like it, if elected President. Although it now appears that the Left had mobilized its forces for Duterte at the polls, he ran as presidential candidate of the PDP-Laban only, and not as a coalition candidate of PDP-Laban and the CPP/NPA/NDF.

    Would he have obtained the same massive grassroots support had he told the electorate he was running as a candidate of the Left also, and that one of his first priorities, if elected, would be to create a coalition government? This is an important question to ask. It is not to revive any Cold War position or sentiment, but it is a fact that while Soviet communism has collapsed and the Cold War has ended, the last remaining communists in Utrecht are Filipinos, and communist insurgency in the country has grown and prospered. So the Filipino people have every right to know what their government intends to do about it.

    For the sake of national solidarity and peace, we should welcome our qualified brothers and sisters on the Left as they take elective or appointive high government office, but only after a genuine peace and reconciliation agreement shall have ended the prolonged armed struggle in the city and countryside. There is no reason why a coalition government should not work here as well as it has in present-day Europe, but it would have no constitutional, political or moral basis while the armed struggle remains unsettled.

    In 1992, Congress repealed Republic Act 1700, otherwise known as the Anti-Subversion Law of 1957, which outlawed the Communist Party of the Philippines and related organizations, so that their members could come down from the mountains and the hills and enter the political mainstream. As a consequence, former communist partisans now sit in Congress as elected party-list members, but sadly their party continues to wage armed struggle.

    For a coalition government to prosper, it must be built on a comprehensive peace agreement that includes, among other things, the laying down of arms and other reconciliatory and confidence-building measures. Even with the best of intentions and goodwill, no coalition government can be formed without this indispensable anchor or foundation. If the coalition government is to be forged after—and necessarily as the result of—an election, the plan or proposal must be well-publicized for the guidance of the voters right from the start of the electoral process.

    Unfortunately, this was never mentioned during the campaign, not even in the presidential debates. No wonder some people feel a gun is now being held to their head, as it were.

    Reviving the death sentence
    Throughout the campaign, Duterte thrilled audiences with his promise to solve crime in three to six months by “killing criminals.” He has since vowed to restore the death penalty for certain heinous crimes. The 1987 Constitution has abolished capital punishment, except for compelling reasons involving heinous crimes. Various administrations from Fidel V. Ramos up have used the penalty to execute criminals. But in 2006, then-President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo suspended the penalty and commuted the death sentence of 1,230 convicts to life imprisonment.

    In 2007, the Philippines acceded to the Second Optional Protocol to the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which commits the state to the perpetual abolition of capital punishment. The government will have to renounce this treaty if it decides to restore the death sentence. That will not be without its international consequences. And the mere move to restore the penalty is certain to trigger an intense debate.

    Advances in penology have created a strong case against the death sentence; extensive studies have shown that the certainty of punishment is a far greater deterrent to crime than the most severe sentence. If every crime were solved, every criminal arrested, prosecuted and punished, the crime rate would certainly go down, without need of imposing any sentence that carries the lethal vengeance of lex talionis.

    A martial law practice
    Duterte has also spoken of curfew for minors. At the Kapihan at Anabel’s in Quezon City last Saturday, Duterte’s bejeweled spokesman-designate Salvador Panelo described curfew as one of the priority measures of the next government. Curfew was one of the most appreciated features of martial law in the seventies, especially by wives and mothers, but it did require martial law to enable Marcos to impose it. Unless part of a state of emergency, curfew will have to be legislated by Congress rather than simply ordered by the Executive; it might sail into extended debate on the freedom of movement of citizens.

    Still there is less danger of a dictatorship arising from a regime that imposes curfew on minors than from one that sees itself in absolute control of everything that moves and believes it has the power and the authority to impose a quota on the number of children a family can have. This is about the most frightening pronouncement we have heard from the incoming government. The presumptive NEDA director-general and secretary of economic planning seems to believe the shortest route to economic progress is not to produce more food for all those sitting on the table but to send away some of the people there.

    Three children per family?
    So instead of talking about new ways and means of creating employment and income, eliminating the energy cartel and reducing the cost of electricity, education, health care and food, his first proposal is to impose population control. This is barred by our Constitution, except that the last time we looked, the Supreme Court justices who constitutionalized the unconstitutional Reproductive Health Law have not heard about it at all.

    Now Mr. Duterte is quoted as saying he does not want to see more than three children per family under his rule. This is a 200-percent improvement upon China’s draconian “one-child policy,” but operates under the same totalitarian principle—it gives the state a power it does not have and puts it in control of all aspects of human existence.

    This is totally incompatible with and repugnant to sound democratic principles. In The Moral Foundation of Democracy, the renowned Duke University professor John H. Hallowell points out what Church teaching and our own Constitution make abundantly clear, that there are spheres of human life which the state may not legitimately control. Family life is one. Our Constitution recognizes “the Filipino family as the foundation of the nation, and marriage, an inviolable social institution, as the foundation of the family.”

    Sec. 12 of Article II provides: “The State recognizes the sanctity of family life and shall protect and strengthen the family as a basic autonomous social institution. It shall equally protect the life of the mother and the life of the unborn from conception. The natural and primary right and duty of parents in the rearing of the youth for civic efficiency and the development of moral character shall receive the support of the Government.”

    Correctly understood and enforced, this provision bars the State from trying to run the family life of any single couple or individual. Under this provision, the State is the primary official protector of conception; it cannot, therefore, be the source or agent of even one single case of contraception. And yet at the behest of powerful global population controllers, and with the obscene cooperation of the Aquino government, this provision was savaged by the RH Law, which makes the State the primary source and provider of contraception.

    In 2014, a benighted Supreme Court ponencia declared this clearly unconstitutional law “not unconstitutional,” saying it is nothing but “a population control measure” which in its view is “not prohibited” by the Constitution despite the clear and unmistakable prohibition contained in the above-quoted provision. Now, the incoming Duterte government threatens to wreak complete havoc by limiting the fertility of married women to a maximum of three children during their lifetime. And we are expected to welcome it and celebrate it, as the first good news about our economic and moral salvation!

    How long before married women are required to secure official papers from the State so they could bear children?

    Duterte must succeed as a democrat
    We all want the incoming Duterte government to succeed. But it must succeed as a democracy, not as the latest manifestation of totalitarianism. We must all work together for this, but Mr. Duterte should lead us, not against us.

    For six years, we had to bear Aquino’s drift into dictatorship. By using the vast resources of the Executive to corrupt Congress and intimidate the Judiciary, he took virtual control of the three branches of government, after the impeachment and removal of the late Chief Justice Renato Corona, and devoted himself to creating ridiculous myths about his late father and mother, Ninoy and Cory Aquino, and making life unpleasant for his perceived enemies, like former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, who remains under detention, and most recently Sen. Ferdinand (Bongbong) Marcos Jr., whom he has made sure would not become the Vice President.

    Only Aquino’s native incompetence and ineptness saved the country from the real rigors of dictatorship. He did not lack the tyrant’s malice, nor the madness, but he did not have the skills. Mr. Duterte, by any measure, is far more skillful and effective than his bumbling predecessor. If he decides to become a dictator, we are sure to suffer the full impact and rigors of his dictatorship. For this reason, he needs to show us a much clearer and far more reassuring layout of where he intends to take the nation during his watch. He must do his best to succeed as a democrat, not as anything else.



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    1. juan bandurias on

      The Duterte-Sison love affair would be fully consumated through federalism. Federalism, in its unadulterated form is good. But when it is used by someone with an insidious agenda, it becomes a dangerous proposition. Based on the Davao City experience where the CPP NPA has infiltrated almost all facets of urban and rural life, it would not be farfetched to say that the CPP NPA would be able to achieve success in terms of influencing and eventually seizing political power in a federal state scenario. Jose Ma. Sison in his twilight years at 79, has probably realized that his nationwide strategy of encircling the cities from the country sides and seize political power using the barrel of the gun won’t happen anymore in his lifetime. Controlling federal states (meaning smaller geographical areas, smaller number of voters to cajole, influence or threaten, having CPP cadres elevated to positions of power within a federal territory and infiltrate all sectors of society, then eventually getting control over economic planning and local taxation, getting 80 percent of revenues, influence local legislation, and maybe control even the local police and military, and so on and so forth until we all reach the gates of communist utopia) would be a more realistic goal.

    2. juan bandurias on

      Seizing power in a smaller mileau such as a Federal state is easy picking, a walk in the park for Jose Ma. Sison and his band of CPP NPA ideologues. They can control one, two, three, four federal states now, and then aspire to control some more federal states in the future. Not a bad prospect, right? Sison can still see the fruits of his labor in his lifetime. And Duterte is delivering it to him in a silver platter, and without conditions. He even wants to release immediately the communist criminals currently in prison to get the “peace talks” going. And he recently said on TV that he will personally fetch Sison from Europe once he officially become president. It is getting clear that the plan of getting the CPP NPA involved in the harvest in a post-election scenario was hatched by Duterte and Sison a long time ago.

      • Erlinda T. Bravo on

        Dear Mr. Juan Bandurias,

        This is exactly what I was afraid of while the election campaign was going on. When I watched a video of the dialogue between Rodrigo Duterte and Jose Ma Sison, my fear intensified. Is there nobody else out there who could see what Duterte is doing? I asked myself. But it seemed everyone else was blind to it. Nobody took it seriously. Even Juan Ponce Enrile shrugged his shoulders and said, the events did not point to Duterte’s leaning towards communism. Countries that experienced communism, had seen the evil that it is. East Berlin, the eastern European countries (i.e. Hungary, Bulgaria, Croatia etc.), Russia,- all these countries have renounced communism in favor of democracy. Vietnam and China though still communists, have seen the benefits of free enterprise and private ownership. Now here is the Philippines, a democracy, on the verge of embracing communism without the people being aware of it taking place. May God protect us from Rodrigo Duterte.

    3. juan bandurias on

      Countrymen, this is the clear and present danger that Duterte has brought upon us. The grandest of all his masterful deceptions. Federalism is a Trojan horse!. In the guise of wiping out criminality and corruption in 3-6 months, the Filipino people are being stealthily duped into accepting a situation where the country is sub-divided into future so-called federal states controlled by the CPP NPA, the usual political dynasties allied to the PDP Laban, and the warlords at the MILF, MNLF. The latter two will have complete control over vast oil and gas reserves in their territories, which will enable the warlords to gain a lot of money, build their own military, and continue their expansionist dreams.

    4. if they will try to sabotage to overthrow the Administration of Duterte by force….Well,we will see Martial Law…..Digong is not a soft amn like Erap….He will fight to the bitter endif cheating come to force him out…..Many blood of the Oligarch and dirty politician will be floating to their graves…..

    5. The people have spoken. The issue of dictatorship ,authoritarian rule or being a dictator was expecting under a Duterte administration. His words were exact, when
      he said “magtago na kayo or tigilan na ninyo or galit ako sa inyo”. The only difference is that, the Corrupt Press failed in their duty to scrutinize or dig deeper on what President Duterte intend to do after being elected. The signs were there especially
      when he used the word “papatayin ko kayo”. The Corrupt Press were just busy running after the funds of demented politicians, feudal and dynasty families who worry about staying to power than what the election will bring ahead of us.
      Right now we cannot speculate but hope for a political change, in order to provide solutions to our endemic problem as a country.
      Offering position to the left is a right step to effect change….peace in the right direction…and only feudal,political dynasties ,demented politician can derail it.

    6. it’s called davao-type dictatorship,
      as opposed to yellow-type democracy.
      the former is much much better than the latter;
      that’s why he is elected by a tsunami and landslide.

    7. Let us look at this man Duterte based historically On his accomplishments in Davao. Remember, he was there 20 plus years. In his brain, he will logically pattern his actions in Davao to what he is going to do for the whole Philippines. Let us enumerate what he did and what he is planning to do:

      1. Curfew will definitely will be enforced.
      2. No sale on Liqour after 1:00 AM
      3. Minimize crime and drugs.
      4. Many criminals will die the first 6 months and will taper off dater 6 months
      5. Traffic in EDSA will be lessened

      What he plans to do and will have a hard time doing it:

      1. Federalism
      2. Shoot to kill order.
      3. Death penalty
      4. Religious organization will be curtailed.
      5. Transferring local police to Mindanao.
      6. Privatizing various government agencies like customs, DOJ,LTO

      That is my short lists

    8. si duterte y matanda na,,matandang makulit at pabago bago ng isip.Even he is a lawyer, obsolute na ang ka alaman niya at pasang awa lang yan, bilang lawyer, nangongopya nga daw lang siya sa mga fraternity brothers niya..what you will expect from him? nothing,,Panay bunganga lang,,nauuna ang bunganga kaysa utak,,(kung meron)..yan ang TUNAY NA PABAGO BAGO ng isip) at da pagbabago…o TUNAY NG PANG GAGAGO? sabi ng uso ang salitang,”naduterte ka”! (mean,,nagoyo o naloko ka)

    9. If my memory serves me right, Martial law was declared by FM and you as his minion to save the republic from rebellion and anarchy. The CPP-NPA was organized during the incumbency of Marcos and that by declaring Martial Law, he said it will be crushed. The only thing that you succeeded to do was to kill many from the intelligentsia who could have been great leaders and nation builders. And yes, his regime succeeded in replacing the old oligarchs with cronies and raided the treasury like it was their own bank. From Joseph Goebbels you have transformed into Joseph MacCarthy.

    10. Ancient Mariner on

      It would have been agreat opinion piece if you had left out your personal religious views. What an anti-climax.

    11. Kit…I think Filipino people wanted simplicity and speed in all their thoughts and deeds. They wanted better life. People can relate to Digong because he lives with them and not the people like many of your friends in “opus dei” who lived in high towers. Obviously, he is angered with the crimes and theft that beset our country. Hence, his attitude is understandable. Why would ordinary people like us worry? People who are known to be involved in drugs, money laundering, theft, illegal activities should worry because he’ll come them. I think we need to give him a chance and support his aspirations to our people and country.

    12. death penalty should be applied only to corrupt politician, because that is the root of poverty and poverty is the cause of crimes.

    13. Amnata Pundit on

      But the Church is not a liberal democracy. If it doesn’t work for the Church, why should it work for the Philippines? Its not in the system, but in the hearts of the people in charge of the system. He may be a dictator but so is the Pope, and so what as long as he is sincerely for the people.

    14. Indeed Mr.Tatad let us welcome fellow filipinos from the left and see what they can do for the country but foremost they must renounce their armed struggle. I also welcome his vow for a three child only per family giving more teeth to reproductive health.You and the catholic hierarchy whom Digong called hypocrites are now squirming in fear because he has the massive support from the populace by winning a landslide victory. Incidentally, you must be proud and ecstatic that their is a Bicolana to be proclaimed as VP and now in a position to be heard in the nation’s daily affairs, join your fellow Bicolanos in dancing with joy an unknown shattered the return of the Marcoses to malacanang!

    15. tony de leon on

      that’s what we need an iron fist leader that will make things move and stop those non stop debate and debate of no effect and nothing accomplished. did you not worked for a dictator yourself? was that good or bad.

    16. The people who voted him wants a dictatorial leader and he is out in DAVAO. Your question can be answered directly: No we cannot and you cannot bring the genie back in the bottle. I did not vote for him nor anyone of them. My conscience is clear, I do not want to eat five poisonous food they are offering. Now whoever voted him must bear it’s consequences including the one who did not.

    17. No.. he meant every word that comes out of his mouth. Old dogs never learn new tricks. He is short tempered and will make a lot of enemies.