This is probably the first time in my adult years that I’ve found myself actually so embroiled in, so concerned about, what my President will do or say at any given time. And it’s not all bad. In fact, this vacillation between good and bad, black and white, is what has kept me on my toes, as I continue to struggle with finding a middle ground, which of course is just so many hues of gray.
Often, just when I think I’m getting a handle on something the President said, or did, or something his appointees didn’t do, something new happens – usually another televised speech, plus a question and answer portion with media – and I’m forced to move on to another issue, listen to the whole speech at least twice, do more research. That will occupy me until the next speech comes along.
The cycle is vicious only because I can barely keep up. And yes this is about me, and you, as citizens of nation who are going to have President Duterte as leader for the next six years. The change is real, and anyone who says it’s all bad is either revealing their social class or their conservatism. To already decide completely and totally about where we stand at this point with regards this government would be unfair.
Even I gave the Liberal Party a year before I decided I would stand squarely against its elitist policies.
Here, issues I continue to grapple with, because that’s the only way to live these days.
The war on drugs. Many ask: when did the war on drugs become our number one priority, when did it become the number one problem? Well, when the President decided it was so – yes, it’s a unilateral decision, and yes all Presidents have done it. PNoy decided our biggest problem was corruption. GMA, the economy. Erap, poverty. And so on and so forth. Had Binay won it would be social services and inequality. Had Roxas, it would’ve simply been a continuation of PNoy.
That we question President Duterte on his decision to make the war on drugs a priority is to miss out on the more important question: why has this not been problematized by governments before his? And just like we told ourselves we could help the previous governments with their own individual wars, why do we refuse to find ways to help this new president?
The killings. It is true, there are no extrajudicial killings, given the fact that there is no death penalty in this country. So all these killings, happening outside of the law, are in fact murders.
I stand against the murder of suspected drug addicts and pushers, as I stand against the murder, and rape, and kidnapping of the victims of the drug business. I stand against the fear it sows in communities, the control the big guns have over people. I stand against the murder of Filipinos in the wars governments have watched happen: against the Lumad, against farmers, against militant activists.
I stand against the murder of countless Filipinos in the hands of elite governments, those murdered by oligarchs, those murdered by public-private partnerships that ensure that public services serve only the interests of the rich. I stand against the murder of Filipinos by governments that have neglected to care for our people, Filipinos who die from hunger and lack of health services, poverty and want.
One wonders what the numbers are for those deaths, too.
America. It is difficult not to be liberated by the statements of President Duterte against America and the unfair relations we keep with them. When one gets beyond the rhetoric, it is clear that the President actually stands on pretty stable ground when he speaks: historically, America has not treated us as equals. Historically America has used us and abused us, and you don’t even need to go back to colonial Philippines.
From the US Bases to EDCA, the inequality is clear. We are told that we gain from these exchanges with America, but certainly America gains more – infinitely more. Their soldiers are allowed to do what they want on these shores, and when someone misbehaves, i.e., rapes/kills a trans/woman, we are disallowed from handling these cases the way we usually would. Structures that EDCA allows the US to take over and build in this country, already makes it a version of the US Bases – just worse. They can take over and build structures in many different sites, one of which is facing the West Philippines Sea. We have no power to find out what their activities are within the new bases.
So no, I do not fear that the President’s words will affect the aid America gives us. Because if it does, then it is America that will have a lot of explaining to do, as it would be obvious that its notions of generosity and kindness are pegged to what it might get in return.
And then it would prove the President correct about the unequal and unfair relations.
Oligarchs and big business. President Duterte’s rhetoric about oligarchs and big business is one that is contradictory. On the one hand, he is angry about oligarchs’ abuse of workers and nation. On the other, he has got a list of oligarchs serving in government – maybe not the Aranetas, or Cojuangcos, but still a Lopez, an Alvarez, a Villar, among other names.
He has insisted on ending contractualization, a stand in itself that must have gotten big business to shake in their boots because how will they achieve their profit margins, if they have to pay their workers more and give them benefits? Que horror!
It helps that government is doing the same, with government offices being the first to regularize its workers (I hope cultural offices are allowed to do the same soon – the NCCA please!). It doesn’t help the President that he has appointees (ehem, Liza Diño at FDCP), terminating the contractual services of cultural workers regardless of years of service, instead of regularizing these people.
That said, I look forward to how else the President will push big business to reassess its role in nation, towards actually standing for a more compassionate and humane treatment of workers. ***