NOW I must face it: Duterte is not the problem.
Forget the bad mouth, that’s his privilege. As it should be the privilege of every Filipino. As somebody from the thinking sector of Philippine society puts it quite amazingly, “putang ina” is the national language of the Filipino people – the biggest justification I ever heard of the President’s unbridled cussing spree. And, I realize now, Duterte’s predilection for badmouthing world dignitaries is too petty a matter to make a national issue of.
But just set Duterte on the balance of extrajudicial killings alone. He becomes a huge problem here. Why say, Duterte is not the problem? That’s what makes the statement sound crazy right off. Unless the nation is doing something about it. Which it is not.
Just last night (time reference being the hour of this writing, which is the morning after), as I was with some labor personalities discussing the projected DO (department order, of the Department of Labor and Employment or DOLE) and EO (executive order, of the President) in connection with contractualization, who should go on a CNN news broadcast on TV but President Rodrigo Duterte, declaring, certainly with his characteristic cocksure arrogance, that he will declare martial law anytime he wishes, the heck with the Supreme Court. Then immediately following that Duterte daredevil stunt was a statement from former senator Rene Saguisag, saying that a proclamation of martial law would just be a formality, since it–surely martial law–has been the rule of the Duterte administration already.
But after focusing on those two news accounts, what did I do? Listen again to accounts in the meeting regarding moves by certain workers’ groups wanting to upstage one another in cozying up to the despot. In other words, who is the labor leader Duterte should listen to and thereby be given the plum, whatever that is. While at the start of the discussions I was a militant participant, after those two newscasts and nobody seemed to mind them anymore, I gradually went quiet. I was not mellowing in my militancy, that was for sure. Rather, I was awed to speechlessness. Here was the despot unabashedly announcing to the nation his disdainful distaste for the law, contempt of constitutional processes, and deplorable disregard for society’s sensibilities, and here we are, trying to find the means of wiggling into the mad scramble for leverage in the Duterte regime.
In the battle between good and evil, it is no longer a problem to determine what evil is. It is there. It is given. It is not the problem.
So, it is no longer a problem to determine Duterte being the Evil One. He is given. He is not the problem. That he does evil is no problem, too. That’s his job, he’s only doing it.
The problem is, where is Good?
In my youth in the 1970s, such a derisive declaration by Duterte would instantly prompt people to rush out into the streets to condemn an imminent rise of a dictatorial regime. On the scale of brazenness by which the dare to declare martial law is made, Marcos pales much in comparison. In fact, Marcos scores zero. Not even once did Marcos ever dare to declare martial law, the declaration being actually made without warning. This explains why when it came, all his political enemies were ensnared and hauled to prisons, not the least of them being Ninoy Aquino.
Marcos declared martial law only after two significant events prompted him to take the necessary step: the bombing of Plaza Miranda – later proven to be the handiwork of Jose Maria Sison (I hesitate to brand it as an act of the Communist Party of the Philippines since practically only Sison and those directly participating in the Plaza Miranda bombing operation were privy to it, like the bombers themselves and those they got the orders from—and the MV Karagatan incident, the botched arms shipment to the CPP/NPA from China which the government discovered, and the arms cargo intercepted. The whole nation was caught unawares that evening of September 22, 1972, when Marcos went on TV announcing that in order to “save the Republic and protect society” he was declaring martial law. It was a similar phrasing Duterte used on TV that evening in making his dare to declare martial law.
Some quarters are prone to dismissing the reported threat of declaring martial law as another case of Duterte braggadocio: “noisy waters are shallow.” In a Manila Times story the day after, Senator Ralph Recto called Duterte’s stunt “all bark, no bite.”
But then other sectors would point out that during the campaign period, Duterte declared he will kill drug addicts and drug pushers—and as soon as he assumed the presidency, he went on a killing spree. The killings have not stopped since, and the Duterte murderous binge now counts over 6,000 victims; he brags about being out to match the record of the Holocaust or of the carnage in Kampuchea by the Khmer Rouge. This boast has prompted a concerned world to take strong notice, like an admonition from America and the European Union and a call for an investigation by the United Nations.
So, Duterte has already driven home his point: that on the killings, he means what he says. This should bring a closure to any speculation that talk of martial law is just an offshoot of his many-flowered tongue.
When Duterte says, he will declare martial law, he means he will declare martial law.
My impulse under this situation is the same as those of others whom I expect to react: expose and oppose. Meaning, go out into the streets again as happened in the First Quarter Storm and there fight the impending dictatorship. In our time, though, Ninoy had the foresight to warn about the Marcos dictatorship; Marcos on his own made no personal indication that martial law was forthcoming. Still we acted at Ninoy’s bidding as though martial law was already there. Quite the contrary now, though Duterte declares already his imminent proclamation of martial law—and in fact one quite knowledgeable authority on the matter, former senator Rene Saguisag, declares a de facto martial law already in existence–what does the nation do? Take its sweet, sweet time.
Of course, the Yellows make little effort at hiding their plot to oust Duterte. Loida Nicolas Lewis, the Sorsogonian billionaire who is reputed to be the richest Filipino outside of the Philippines and silent kingmaker of both United States and Philippine Presidents, has come to be a favorite whipping boy by DDS for scheming to remove “Vice” from Leni Robredo’s official title. But as one reader has reacted to an article of mine on the matter, the yellows don’t have the, what Senator Kit Tatad would put as, gravitas. From the looks of it, the yellows really don’t have it the way they had it in 1986 when through US machination they deposed Marcos.
But the times now urgently call for ultimate damning of Duterte. And this is not to be taken to mean the yellows must do it again. Rather, make the people do it this time, and making the people do it this time means the workers taking the frontlines in the struggle against the impending despotic rule. When Marx said, “The proletariat can no longer liberate itself without liberating the whole of society,” he did mean the workers must be at the forefront of fighting oppression and exploitation. But in this all too glaring exercise of oppression and exploitation by Duterte, what do we get from the working class? A workers’ leadership that, from whichever in the working-class spectrum– i.e., whether left or right or center–is more concerned about ingratiating themselves with the rising despotism rather than preventing it from prospering.
So, Duterte has been enjoying a heyday. He continues to kill people. He breaks the law. He violates the Constitution. He trashes due process, throws civilization to the winds. Are these crimes against the people to be condoned all because he succeeds –granting he indeed succeeds—in bringing in billions of dollars in investments, which in any case are yet to be realized by way of achieving economic development for the country?
In the conduct of government, no leeway whatsoever is given a sovereign to commit wrongs in exchange for a certain amount of gains. The criterion is purity of service – a hundred percent adherence to, and resolute upholding of, not just one or two but the entirety of the principles and ideals enshrined in the Constitution and in the laws of the land. Moreover, the country’s leader is expected to hold high the Filipino heritage of honor and dignity which has earned for the race utmost respectability in the community of nations. That respectability is now increasingly getting tainted by a growing image of a people rendered pitiable for—by their inaction—allowing terror and tyranny to rule over them.
A popular perception among workers’ leaders in continuing to push for the DO and the EO is that chances are, Duterte and his DOLE will issue the orders in order to neutralize the workers into supporting the administration
in the event Duterte does impose martial law. What these leaders don’t realize is that in police lingo, “neutralize” means “kill”. So, before they realize it, Duterte could be killing workers as well.
I don’t quite recall the exact phrasing, but here’s this saying to the effect, “The only way for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.”
I am good, but sad, I’m old. I can do nothing else than nothing.
I am the problem.