• The postmodern president and the International Criminal Court



    President Rodrigo Roa Duterte has exploded political bombs into our imaginations that burned those who were used to the pretentious “daang matuwid.” But he also brought a healthy dose of fresh air, a new breath of hope to a people tired of this hypocrisy and self-righteousness.

    What is in this man that draws so much violent reactions from people that normally I would have agreed with in the sense that we inhabit the same common grounds – university professors, pedigreed scholars, intellectual artists, feminists, human rights advocates, street-level bureaucrats, civil society activists?

    There is something in this man that destabilizes the stable, unsettles the settled, and questions what used to be non-negotiable grounds, and he gets away with it.

    And the answer lies in the fact that Rodrigo Roa Duterte came at a time when the country was looking for redemption from the grand elite and colonial narratives that have contained, confined and imprisoned us.
    He is postmodern without him knowing it. And this is the source of his power.

    Being postmodern implies one who does not believe in single meanings, and who takes advantage of the plurality and multiplicity, and the intractability of language to create a kind of politics that subsists on simulations, or the state in which image and reality are no longer distinguishable.

    President Duterte is postmodern in the sense that he escapes any attempt to be named and labeled. He is unpredictable. He is an iconoclast in that he challenges conventions in almost everything. His identity rests on fluidity rather than on certainty. He forces people to pay attention to the nuances of language if only to make sense of what he says.

    He interrupts the usual, subverts the conventional, and challenges the traditional, and deploys a kind of unpredictability that becomes his own weapon. This is why the elites and those who lived comfortably in the certainty of the “daang matuwid” and black and white politics hate him.

    He is the master of simulations, in the sense that one could no longer distinguish his image from his reality. Unlike his predecessor who lived on contrived imaging courtesy of staged narratives by media spinners, Duterte’s obliteration of the divide between joke and hyperbole on one hand, and serious policy statement on the other is so organically rooted that it acquires enormous political power, to the consternation of media and the elites so used to predictability and plasticity of messages.

    Take the case of his war on drugs.

    The offensive speech of the President was a deliberate attempt to shock and awe, which proved useful in staking out his scale of support as to how much people are willing to support and tolerate him. He ended up having the approval of 4 out of 5 Filipinos.

    He also was able to smoke out his opposition, throwing them in a frenzy of revealing their trump cards that made everything appear as just too obviously staged and coordinated.

    The price that we have to pay is the image of having a free-for-all in the streets, seen in drug-related deaths painted on cardboards allegedly from the hands of state agents acting upon the imprimatur of the President.
    And for this, the President is threatened with a case at the International Criminal Court or ICC.

    But these are images and representations that are socially and politically constructed, and therefore can be dealt with by countering them with a deployment of narratives that effectively undermine their certainty.
    The President himself appears to have moved his focus away from the drug war as he now turns his fluidity towards foreign policy.

    This is perhaps why Senator Pangilinan of the opposition LP keeps on reminding us of the drug-related deaths in his Facebook posts to keep the narrative alive, hoping that it will strengthen the case against the President.

    However, to prove Presidential culpability, one has to produce evidence that such was indeed state policy. But this is now negated by the fact that there is no written policy document governing the drug war. It was all delivered in oral texts, where hyperbole was intertwined with policy, where nuances render the process of attributing direct culpability extremely difficult.

    Added to this is the fact that the state, through the IAS, has actually initiated motu-propio proceedings on all drug-related deaths, thereby rendering it difficult to find for wilful neglect and failure to investigate, which are essential in proving a case for crimes against humanity.

    The President has turned governance on its head, by refusing to be boxed into the traditional and conventional. He deployed his authenticity as the basis from where to judge his actions. His speech creates meanings that are so fluid and nuanced, and hence culpable intent is hard to prove beyond any reasonable doubt.

    Legal systems are built on certainty, where fluidity creates doubt. The fluid nature of this postmodern President would lead to a level of doubt that would be hard to surmount.


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    1. Well-said sir!

      You have articulated what most of us think about the phenomenon that is Pres. Duterte. Try hard as his critics portray him as a psycho and lunatic leader, majority of the Filipino believe in his wisdom and sincerity to serve his beloved country.

      Four out of 5 believes in him, simply because they are sick and tired of the Elitist and Oligarchic way our government had been run by “decent” politicians who never cared for the common Filipino.

    2. I am always afraid about the safety og Pres Du30. The enemy yellow group, America/CIA, local media, elites, at mga bayarang pwedeng kumitil sa kanya ? para lang mawala sa landas nila ? sana dagdagan ang pagiingat nya at sana di ipahintulot ng Lumikha.

    3. Antonio Contreras Maraming salamat! At long last, the wait is over for the just written well-construct piece to de-construct the Digong, so that President Rodrigo R. Duterte can be little understood by everybody, for truly, he’s one hard nut to crack. So far, the Digong has been decoded, but not yet, for there is still so much time in what new things shall be done in the days to come to enhance the Pilipino life.

    4. mario san antonio on

      the article is incisive, presenting points not readily discernible by many. duterte’s approach is certainly non conventional and borders on the irrational, and causes one to seriously doubt its effectiveness. he has repeatedly cursed Obama and portrayed US as evil… i wonder when and how US/CIA will retaliate…. there may be telltale signs it actually started already.

    5. Professor Contreras . your being honest and fair in giving your ideas is a must that hopefully every writer can emulate. You talk from the heart and in reality. Honestly I did not support president duterte during the last election but if you are a true Filipino u can’t just ignore the many changes donebin 3 months..dignity and pridebof Filipinos were restored, peace initiatives is going on and reduction of crime is so impressive and without any big bruhuha our pinoyfishermen are back in panatag. Keep writing a positive note..your admirer from tri state area base in new York city, USA….

    6. Grabeh ang analysis mo, Prof. Contreras! Thank you so much! Really PDU30 is one-of-a-kind and I see him victorious in all his endeavors! He is 100 miles ahead always sa mga yellowtards and other critics. They cannot decipher him…thanks God. At long last we have the President the Philippines need so badly. Please keep on writing. God bless you and our country.

    7. Nice intellectual lecture of Prof. Contreras on PRRD. For me and other simpletons who voted for him, PDigong is an incarnate of our nationalist heroes who fought for our independence and pride as Filipinos. For love of country and people, he curses the colonial powers and its leaders to stop treating us as second rate trying hard copycats of their culture and way of life.Galet kami!.They can go to hill, with J
      ack and Jill. hehehe.

    8. Salute’ Prof Contreras….. Senator Noted still around? Sorry I didnot vote for that idiot and for those who did, shame on you. What have he done before anyway?
      As I commented before, my fellow colleagues in the Academe voted for Mr. Duterte hoping for a real change since what we saw in the likes of Roxas, Poe etc, there won’t be any change whatsoever, it will be the same as before “daang natuwad”

    9. Well thought and lots of substance. Keep on writing please. Everybody deserves to see the other side of the coin.

    10. Roberta R. Lim on

      Hmmm..Salamat po. It’s an interesting take on the Duterte phenomenon. Eh, po kasi–angkop nga ang approach ng pangulo sa sitwasyon, kultura at intuitive intelligence at pangunawa ng nakararaming Pilipino…Hindi tulad ng linearity at literalness ng mga half-educated at , I hate to admit it–mga tamad at may mga pagka xenophobic na mga tao. Maraming salamat po sa insight na ishinare ninyo.

    11. Julius Mendoza on

      Dear Prof. Contreras,

      This is a wonderful analytical piece. At medyo bitin po because you touched many big topics such as post-modernism, subversion of cliches, subjugation of society through narrative and symbolics. Sana po series para each major area mapagtuonan talaga ng pansin at mas mailahad at maipaliwanag. Sayang kasi na that some great concepts and ideas get lost because the masses cannot access them due to their opaque and technical language.

    12. Great article! You have just put into words how I felt for this President. Thumbs up ?

    13. Spot on analysis. Keep them coming, please. The yellowtards and the human rights people seem to lack depth, lack the ability and lack even the slightest interest to favorably decipher and consider where Pres. Duterte is coming from, of course. Conditioned minds are always either in the grasping or rejecting or denial mode and are fixated with the idea of an illusory certainty. Yet, in reality, life is dynamic (not static) where vigilance / alertness, openness and creativity are indispensable virtues in order for humans to thrive well. That’s why I love it when PDu30 rocks the boat fiercely for the sake of the Filipinos and the nation he deeply loves. It only means that with his brilliant strokes and mastery of the art of calculations, a better chance to uplift the conditions of the masses may indeed happen, finally! Godspeed, Mr. President. Thanks!

    14. EVEN WORSE THAN Showbiz people or athletes who parlay their popularity into a political career, normally ho-hum, is this Pangilinan, who rides on his wife’s showbiz coattail and tries to represent that he is holier than thou !!!!!!

    15. What a brilliant writer. Mr. Pangilinan kindly interpellate or answer Mr. Contreras point of view regarding the above stated analysis. You can write your own column or comment.

    16. Thanks for enlightening us Prof. Antonio Contreras.People like you are a gem worth reading.These yellow bleeding hearts are people who are selfish enough to be happy seeing our country in turmoil.Gone are the days that the truth is only what the mainstream media fed us and thus brainwashed the ordinary people in their own version of the truth the twisted truth.I hope you continue to educate us so that we can liberate ourselves in these chains of helplessness form the ruling elite.One thing the president is fighting for is for us to regain our dignity back.God bless the like she of you and Sass Rogando Sassot,Mocha Uson,Thinking Pinoy…

    17. Jessie Corrales on

      yes, the accusations against him are indeed difficult to prove bec at the end of the day, there is no written edict to support that it is state policy. The threats posed by the ICC are imo, politically instigated designed for a purpose other than what the court is mandated to do. The US just wants him out so they can continue with their self serving agenda in this part of the world. Duterte destabilized the US’ comfort zone.

    18. Duterte is one of a kind. You cannot compare him with Hugo Chaves or Donald Trump. I think he’s very intelligent but maybe he is pushing his luck that he might be creating too many enemies. I respect him because the people voted for him. I hope that Pilipinos made the right person. I want him to succeed. No more name calling like yellow shirt, Dutertides please. We are mature enough.

    19. Sa totoo lang nahihirapan po akong intindihin pero dahil gusto kung malaman ang iyong isinulat, kenopya ko po at pinatranslate sa google at naunawaan ko na rin maski papano.. pasinsya na po pero gustuhin ko man hindi ko po kayang intindihin lahat sa salitang Ingles…

      • I believe in the so called love and patriotism to our country. He truely has possess that inner assertivity and that holds me to firmly hold on to it that the rhythm of change is going on as days keep going.

    20. Mabuhay ka Prof. Contreras, please kindly watch your back you one of the few who understood the Pres. governance this yellowtards you make them like little people with no brain and class smoke them out from their holes.

      Pangilinan I don`t know what to say about you but a yellowtards self righteous/ hypocrite.

      • Duterte has reinstated rhetoric in its privileged space in public policy. He is Aristotle’s guy whose ethos and pathos reflect the public sentiments. He is Nietszche’s superman who descended from the mountains with a lamp on his hand in broad daylight, exposing the ignorance of those who pretend to know the world. Foucault must be smiling at his un/conscious utilization of power to bring about a unique discourse that finally caused policy changes in the country.

      • I enjoyed reading your article and you’ve read him well. He is one of a kind that catches our attention to the reality that we’re not aware or partially aware of. I never thought that there’s still someone left on this planet that could strongly drive our attention to something that taken for granted as a result of hopelessness and other reasons that limits the struggle of survival into this perilous world. What he is doing is extra ordinary and patriotic. Despite of not knowing the outcome of his presidency and his governance…I believed him. Therefore will always support him all the way to the end until the truth will set us free!!!