I WOKE up yesterday, on my first day as a 78-year-old, feeling that the world, as I had known it, had ended or was ending, and I had no knowledge of where I was. The press reports said it all. President Rodrigo Duterte accused the discredited Liberal Party of conspiring with the Communist Party of the Philippines/New People’s Army (his reported allies) to oust him; vowed to impeach and remove Supreme Court Chief Justice Lourdes Sereno and Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales for altogether different reasons; and ranted against Sen. Antonio Trillanes 4th as “half a man” (“with only one testicle”), and a “womanizer” (just like himself?), and challenged him to a gun duel.
The day before that, Cielito “Honeylet” Avanceña, whom the media describe as DU30’s common-law wife, fresh from her socializing with Mrs. Melania Trump in Manhattan, called a news conference to defend DU30 from charges of extra-judicial drug killings, saying that if DU30 was really behind the killings, why was Trillanes still alive? Trillanes, who had asked the Ombudsman to investigate DU30’s allegedly humungous bank deposits which he had failed to declare in his statement of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN), did not respond to “Honeylet.” But he responded to DU30 by saying the President was clearly losing his mind.
An old accusation
This was not a recent accusation. A 1998 medical report from Dayan’s Psychological Clinic, which Judge Pablito M. Rojas used in 2000 to grant Elizabeth Zimmerman Duterte’s petition for the dissolution of her marriage to the then congressman of Davao, found the man to be suffering from a “serious and incurable narcissistic personality disorder,” with aggressive features, such as “his gross indifference, insensitivity, and self-centeredness, his grandiose sense of self and entitlement, his manipulative behaviors, his lies and his deceits, as well as his pervasive tendency to demean, humiliate others and violate their rights and feelings.”
DU30 is not unaware of his mental disorder, but he has managed to trivialize it by saying that while he suffered from insanity at level one, Trillanes’s alleged insanity was at level three. He is fond of calling his critics “buang” (Visayan for crazy), while some of his coffeeshop and boardroom critics refer to him as “Bal”, short for “baliw” (Filipino, for mad or insane). So far, the issue has not been raised formally in any forum to question his fitness to remain in office.
In support of DU30, Solicitor General Jose Calida vowed to put Trillanes, Overall Deputy Ombudsman Melchor Arthur Carandang and other critics behind bars for “illegally” disclosing DU30’s alleged bank transactions totaling over P1 billion, and for other “crimes”. Calida is reportedly looking into the possibility of charging some clerics as well for providing sanctuary to witnesses against the extra-judicial drug killings. Some policemen have approached some Catholic bishops and priests for possible protection, if and when they finally come out openly against the killings.
All these are happening even as Philippine National Police Chief Ronald “Bato” de la Rosa claims the Philippines has become the envy of the world for the way the police and so-called vigilantes have dealt with the illegal drug problem. It is a perverted way of looking at how the world has responded to the extra-judicial killings.
One pictorial report on The New York Times (December 7, 2016) won a Pulitzer Prize under the title, “They are slaughtering us like animals.” No one in the outside world has said anything kinder. An attempt to use the US permanent representative at the UN to speak for DU30 proved to be false news.
DU30’s diminishing defense
DU30 continues to derive his strongest support from trolls and bots in the social media, who echo his foul and abusive language aside from his out of this world reasoning. But their numbers have declined drastically, reduced to 48 troll sites, according to competent sources. In the mainstream media, DU30’s defenders have been reduced to paid commentators who attack his critics instead of defending his indefensible positions.
At Wednesday’s Senate hearing, some pro-DU30 bloggers could not tell the senators why they should be allowed to post their “private opinions” while holding on to official government positions, which do not allow them to broadcast their so-called private opinions.
As public and media support for DU30 erodes, his use of vile and unprintable language conversely tends to increase. Although he has never been sparing in his use of such language, he seemed to have exceeded himself in his verbal tirades against Trillanes, Sereno, Morales and Carandang. He has gone far beyond the lowest level any of his predecessors had sunk into, in their most grievous moments.
I have watched presidents come and go for the past 54 years, when I began my newspaper career with Agence France-Presse (the French news agency). I have not seen nor heard a President as profane and as proudly depraved as the former mayor of Davao. You could accuse other presidents of similarly misusing their constitutional powers, and failing to rise above their personal ambitions, but DU30 is the first one who has violated our people’s most basic norms as human beings. His crimes are not just against our constitutional democracy and political conventions; they are against our basic humanity.
I am not prepared to join those who say he has dragged us down to the lower rungs of Dante’s hell, but there’s no doubt he has pulled our society down to the sewer where rodents breed. For me, DU30’s greatest injury to our society does not consist in his running the presidency like a bucolic monarchy, with nearly absolute control of Congress and the Treasury, and threatening nearly absolute control of the Judiciary; it consists rather in his proclaiming the most perverted moral values as the operating values of our society.
Life at the sewers
When you see and hear fully grown adults, with college rings from a sectarian school and some PhDs at that, celebrating the horrors that DU30’s drug killings and gangster politics have inflicted upon our society; when you see DU30 violating the simplest social convention in the public square and everyone else trying to suppress their embarrassment at the unnecessary offense to basic good manners; and when you see and hear young innocent children repeating the profanities and obscenities which other children cower at, remembering what their parents had taught them about damnation if they so much as whispered them, we begin to wonder what future is possible for us in this life at the sewer.
In 1980, six years before the EDSA Revolt, I left the Marcos Cabinet after serving for 10 long years, as its spokesman and information minister. I feared the government would eventually run into trouble, as it finally did on February 25, 1986, when Marcos was ousted by the civilian-supported military revolt. But I never had the sense that Marcos had made his ouster not only necessary but inevitable.
In 2000, I saw President Joseph Ejercito Estrada navigate against the currents that sought his ouster on the ground of bribery and corruption. Despite the determined efforts of the elite, which never liked Estrada’s populist politics and his being too closely identified with the poor, he seemed to enjoy high popular support on the ground. And until the last minute, I never sensed Estrada had made his ouster by his own Vice President (Gloria Macapagal Arroyo) and her well-deployed forces not only necessary but inevitable.
Fears for DU30
Why is it then that I seem to feel that DU30’s end may not be long in coming?
For nine long years, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo was hounded by questions of her legitimacy, and actual threats of being ousted by the former president. But she managed to hold on until the 2010 automated elections, when B. S. Aquino 3rd became our first machine-elected President. Why is it then that DU30, despite his supposed “landslide” of a 38 percent win and strong economic support from China, seems to have no greater fear than his being removed from power?
He keeps none of his fears to himself, and if it’s not the “Yellows” and the CPP/NPA he suspects, he raises the bogey of the Church and some generals secretly plotting against him. And he openly speculates about the US State Department and the CIA doing him in. All this continues despite his recent declared U-turn on his previously announced military and economic separation from the US, and aligning himself with China and Russia “against the world”.
A free fall?
In Episode 15, Season 3 of the fictional American TV series “Madam Secretary”(“Break in Diplomacy”), General Purisima, the fictional Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff, offers the fictional US President Conrad Dalton a plan to get rid of Datu Andrada, the fictional Philippine President, who is described as an absolute psychopath. But the fictional Secretary of State Elizabeth McCord rejects this option. This could be a realistic depiction of DU30’s current situation.
Most, if not all, of DU30’s injuries are self-inflicted, and there is more reason to believe he would fall on his own. I hope I am wrong, but somehow I cannot help but suspect he is now on a free fall—and it’s all on his own.