IT seems lopsided at first glance, to make presidential aspirant Rodrigo Duterte square with past Uganda strongman Idi Amin. Physically, the former is at a disadvantage with his 5-foot-something, mid-size frame that seems best fit only for evincing notions of machismo. The latter, with 6 feet, 4 inches of a mighty robust physique, at once etches in the air the image of a towering giant made more awesome by medals of gallantry tucked to the left side from the breast to the hem of his military coat.
An accomplished swimmer, soccer forward, and the light heavyweight boxing champion of Uganda in his prime, Amin was the athletic type, to top his own machismo. Coupled with a brilliant military career beginning with his assignment at the King’s African Rifle in World War II all the way to his chiefdom of all Ugandan armed forces upon his ouster of former ally Ugandan Prime Minister Milton Obote in a coup in 1971, his attributes easily made him strut forward as a legendary hero for the oppressed – except that once in power, he opted to turn from hero to oppressor.
Here is an account by Wikipedia on the atrocities recorded under the reign of Idi Amin:
“The killings, motivated by ethnic, political, and financial factors, continued throughout Amin’s eight-year reign. The exact number of people killed is unknown. The International Commission of Jurists puts the death toll at no fewer than 80,000 and more likely around 300,000. An estimate compiled by exile organizations with the help of Amnesty International puts the number killed at 500,000.”
Beginning with the slaughter of Obote supporters in the military, Amin’s killing spree swept through various other groups before long, undertaken in a most indiscriminate manner. The victims included members of dissenting ethnic groups, religious leaders, journalists, artists, senior bureaucrats, judges, lawyers, students and intellectuals, criminal suspects, and foreign nationals.
According to the account, “In this atmosphere of violence, many other people were killed for criminal motives or simply at will. Bodies were often dumped into the River Nile.”
In this light, the choice of Idi Amin as a Duterte look-alike is valid. In the history of Philippine politics, neither has a president nor any other presidential aspirant ever proclaimed killing as a way of government. And most worrisome is that Duterte makes such proclamation without any qualms whatsoever, even admitting having committed those killings in Davao City with impunity.
In the case of the recent killing of kidnappers in Davao City, Duterte unabashedly declared his reason thus: “To show my brutality.”
It is utterances like the one above that have made Duterte a darling to a throng yet unable to shake off the collective psyche of reverence for the kanto boy who subdues every other siga-siga in the neighborhood so that thereby he becomes the supreme siga. Wasn’t this psyche the one single factor that has endeared Fernando Poe, Jr. in his heyday to throngs even in such far-flung places as Mindanao? Give it to Duterte that he is iconized in Davao City. Give it even to his idolizers elsewhere in the country. If they see the Duterte carnage as cause for heroism, let them have the consequences coming to them. They will learn to their cost that glorifying a heartless demented despot is bound to heap upon them the worst. Idi Amin was proclaiming himself hero of all Africa – until he began giving release to his innate barbarous instincts.
One account sees Idi Amin in this light. “Amin’s egotistical behavior and mental health have been the subjects of much speculation throughout his reign and life. He was described as having a quick-change and violent short temper; being charming, happy, and charismatic one minute and then suddenly angry, violent, and brutal the next, with little or no warning. Many have speculated that his behavior was either the result of long-term syphilis of the brain or possibly undiagnosed and untreated bipolar disorder.”
Pity the Philippines if it had such a president
The thesaurus defines bipolar disorder, also known as bipolar affective disorder or manic depression, as a mental disorder characterized by periods of elevated mood and periods of depression. The elevated mood is significant and is known as mania or hypomania depending on the severity or whether there is psychosis.
Another account suggests a suspicion that Idi Amin was a cannibal, judging from the gory mutilation inflicted upon one of his wives. Amin never made any effort to solve the mystery.
In fairness, Duterte has neither eaten human flesh nor mutilated a wife. He has only neglected one, Elizabeth Abellana Zimmerman, who has this to say of him: “Yes, he is really a very good leader. That is all he is. But when it comes to family, he is not capable of taking care of it.” Now, charity begins at home. If you haven’t got charity for your family, how can you have charity for the nation?
Duterte’s posturing to the media can then be nothing but a grand act of projecting, as in Amin, his “egotistical behavior and mental health.” To repeat, what’s that in Amin? “Syphilis of the brain or possibly undiagnosed and untreated bipolar disorder.”
Of late, the Social Weather Stations (SWS) released the result of its latest survey showing Duterte suddenly springing to the top of the field of presidential candidates, at 38%, with Grace Liamanzares and Vice President Jejomar Binay both at 21%.
Regardless of the lack of credibility of the survey (for it was reportedly commissioned by a Duterte supporter), the same Amnesty International which made strong intervention in Idi Amin’s killings in Uganda was alarmed by the publication of its result and has come forward to issue a warning to Duterte. But as Amin ignored the international human rights organization in the past, so does Duterte now.
“Ano ba’ng problema nila?” GMA News Online quotes Duterte’s reaction to the warning.
Proud of having killed 1,700
In a most abhorrent display of conceit and arrogance, Duterte even volunteers the information that Amnesty International’s figure of killings he admits having done in Davao City is wrong.
“Seven hundred daw piñatay ko? Kulang sila sa kuwenta,” Duterte says.
The GMA News Online reports: “Asked for a figure, he replied: ‘Mga 1,700’.”
Against the Davao City population of 1.449 million, that figure is at a ratio of 17 persons killed for every 850 of the population, or 2%. How does this compare with Idi Amin’s ratio? 300,000 killed against Uganda’s population of 11.8 million in 1978, that’s 3 persons killed out of every 39 of the population, or 7%. Evidently Duterte’s record pales in comparison to that of Idi Amin.
But make no mistake. Idi Amin was already dictator of Uganda when he killed those 300,000, with Uganda’s 25,000-strong armed forces completely at his beck and call. In contrast, Duterte is just mayor of Davao City, with not even the local police force under his command but just a private, albeit feared, death squad. And yet he is already scoring 2%.
Imagine if as president Duterte becomes commander in chief of the 150,000-strong Armed Forces of the Philippines and of the 160,000-strong Philippine National Police (the aggregate total of personnel being more than ten times those of Amin when he killed the 300,000) whose awesome killing powers, by virtue of law, are completely under his control.
Imagine the Awful Horror Duterte would be capable of doing once he becomes president. The possible catastrophe to happen is of biblical epic proportion: nothing like it in the past nor will there be anything like it in the future.
For eight years Idi Amin did Armageddon to Uganda. Are we to thank God Duterte will have only six years to do it to the Philippines, just in case?