Or The Making of A Philippine Political Superstar should have been the sub-title of this piece.
When Duterte cussed Pope Francis during the latter’s visit to the Philippines, it was to be taken as a release of his natural tendency to badmouth almost anything. By now Duterte has landed in the Guinness Book of World Records for having cussed the most number of dignified personalities, including the Secretary General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon. But when he thrashes US President Barack Obama within the hallowed parameters of diplomatic decorum in the Asean Summit, like he was doing it in the mire and stench of the ghettos of Davao City, something must be in the offing. You just don’t bullshit the President of the Greatest Nation in the world without the CIA instantly delivering a telling response. But Duterte did just that and the CIA didn’t do anything as expected for a reprimand.
Just to illustrate how grave a reprimand a presidential misbehavior could elicit is this incident, posted on Facebook by departed comrade-in-arms Al Simbulan sometime before he passed away last Saturday. In that post, Al told of the dying testimony of former CIA operative and key Bay of Pigs/Watergate/Nixon administration figure E. Howard Hunt on the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. In his deathbed confession, aired on national radio, Hunt admits he was approached to be part of the CIA assassination team to kill JFK and that the main plotter of the assassination was then-vice president Lyndon B. Johnson, who on the night before the assassination had met up with Dallas tycoons, FBI moguls and organized crime kingpins and then emerged from the meeting to tell his mistress Madeleine Duncan Brown that “those SOBs [referring to the Kennedys]” would never embarrass him again.
The man scorned in that incident was only a vice president, and yet he got back at the Kennedy’s with unforgiving resolve to kill. Precisely, that is the point here. How much more resolute would a US President be to avenge his thrashing in the hands of somebody as petty as the President of a former colony? You might say what was at stake in the Johnson-Kennedy rivalry was the presidency of the most powerful nation in the world at the time, yes, and in the Duterte-Obama match-up now, the stake is no less that: the US presidency on the balance. Would Obama pass it off as just one more display of Duterte’s irreverent character?
Consider the circumstances. Duterte’s cussing the Pope took place in the midst of a traffic mess where one is not expected to pay heed to civil decorum. But make him bullshit the Pope while the pontiff is in the midst of delivering a sermon on St. Peter’s Square. Would Duterte not meet with a trouncing by an angered mass of humanity right then and there?
This air of reverence was what prevailed certainly in the Asean Summit in Laos when Duterte called Obama a “son of a whore,” as went the reports. It is quite unthinkable that Obama would dismiss the high insult with nary a betrayal of some uncontrollable human impulse at least.
In the 1960s, a member of the Philippine Senate scored big in the international limelight when he uttered some remark in a session of the United Nations that got USSR Premier Nikita Kruschev riling. Right at the podium of the UN session, Kruschev took his shoe off and flailed it angrily at Sen. Lorenzo Sumulong, the lawmaker who got him feeling utterly insulted.
Kruschev’s outburst was only human and should be expected, and he was being true to himself at that. Obama’s decorum at Duterte’s badmouthing him in the reverential atmosphere of the Asean Summit indicated he was being, in contrast to Kruschev, untrue to himself. If, then, this were true, then another trueness on the part of Obama must be in place. What is true about Obama’s reaction to Duterte’s supreme irreverence? Did it indicate a high-profile outward civility that would turn out to be its exact opposite once the show of trueness became confined in a clandestine meeting, as LBJ did with FBI moguls and organized crime kingpins on the night previous to the assassination of JFK? If Obama does not engage in such a meeting, then you can bet your bottom dollar, the Obama-Duterte tussle is out to accomplish a truly big agenda.
What could it be?
Your guess is, as goes the cliché, as good as mine, though my appraisal of social events is never confined to guesses. It is, rather, an insight that derives its validity from laws of social development that give rise a priori to facts rather than facts giving rise to social development as an aftermath. I did not have facts in 1986 to back my contention that Cory, instead of Marcos, was the US boy in that year’s snap presidential election. With that assessment, I almost implored the top leadership of the Communist Party of the Philippines to withdraw its policy of boycott of the election, a policy anchored on the proposition that Marcos was still the candidate being groomed for continuous US lapdogship. But the US Seventh Fleet was on standby on Manila Bay as well as international media meant to be around to cover a big happening. It’s not the riddle of what comes first, the chicken or the egg. Certainly there won’t be any chicken without an egg being hatched. But there won’t be any egg without the chicken laying it? How is that so? That’s social development, giving rise to facts, rather than facts giving rise to social development.
Given this methodology of evaluating social events, I correctly perceived that Cory, contrary to the Party view, was the US boy agrooming and that Marcos was on the way out. I even put forward the proposal of striking up a modus viviendi with Marcos vis-a-vis the US, the most pragmatic option at the time, considering that despite the demonizing that Ninoy had subjected Marcos to over the past 20 years, the dictator continued to enjoy popular mass support, with the military mostly remaining in his control but for a disgruntled section represented by the YOU (Young Officers Union).
The point in all this is that the development of social event does not immediately manifest from its outward appearances. On the contrary, such development takes place in a wink of an eye, as goes a Biblical verse, when a series of quantitative developments results in the final single qualitative change.
On the Obama-Duterte apparent verbal tussle, such a series of quantitative developments is yet to take place completely. But early on, we can tell from inviolable laws of social development where it is all headed for.