Of course, the “logically obsessed” would beg to disagree. They will contend that just because one criticizes Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte, it doesn’t mean that they are “dilawan”, or siding with the Liberal Party (LP) – arguably the loudest voice in the opposition, or some people would like to say, the anti-Duterte camp. And vice versa: critics of the LP – a lot of them critics from the time of Duterte’s predecessor Benigno Simeon “BS” Aquino III, don’t necessarily support Duterte blindly.
The limitation here, however, is that perfectly logical arguments are made in vacuums – that is, they assume ideal settings where all sides not only all act perfectly rationally, but are perfectly and ideally organized and have well-defined stances.
When you take into consideration that, here in the Philippines, arguments become not only political, but personal in nature, it is expected that logic breaks down.
The political reality of the opposition remains essentially unchanged, something I described in a previous article: The problem that plagues the opposition to this administration remains seemingly unchanged from previous ones. The many voices in the wilderness just cannot get along with each other, and put a greater cause above themselves.
Because the opposition is unable to come together, there is consequently no alternative vision for what the Philippines’ future state should be.
Say what you will about the Duterte administration. Just to give a few examples, its anti-drug campaign has not been bloodless, and is hobbled by undesirable elements within the police’s own ranks. His spokespersons and communications team have yet to prove that they are capable of handling their jobs; they are getting trounced not only by the hostile mainstream media, but by Mocha Uson as well. Last example is that some of his cabinet members have been, for lack of a better word, duds.
However the Duterte administration falls short of a few expectations, it does not seem so for lack of trying; the obstacle is a power structure (i.e., people, behaviors, and a long-established network of favor-exchanging) that is not only desperate to cling to what it thinks it’s entitled to, it also will take more than one presidential term to dismantle.
Gruesome and undesirable as some of the methods, and results, may appear, Duterte’s vision of a drug-free Philippines, and that of a people less dependent on external influences for validation, have proven to be worth getting behind. Change is rarely painless; it may not always be for the better at first, but it is something Filipinos have decided they want. It is up to them to make it work.
I mentioned above the lack of cohesion and unity among the many voices in the opposition. As a result, it has become, unfortunately, defined by the loudest – not necessarily the most deserving to be heard – voice in the room, the LP’s. This is also why Filipinos have little choice: if they insist on staying passive and non-committal, then the loudest will dominate and “make the decision” for them.
We must emphasize, however, that the commitment Filipinos need to make is not to a personality, but to a desired path, and to a willingness to make institutions work for them.
Let’s see what the opposition offers.
The LP offers the status quo. Or rather, more accurately, they are mostly constrained to declaring what things shouldn’t be; it apparently does not have a clear vision of a future Philippines. Even worse, more often than not, the “solutions” they offer are untested, idealistic, are nothing more than motherhood statements, and are seemingly more about satisfying their sensibilities, than they are about actually working. The biggest failure of the LP as part of the opposition, however, is that it has exhausted all its credibility, particularly because of a long 30-year period of no results, when it was among the dominant forces in the political landscape.
Time as we know it moves only forward. Thus, insisting on the status quo is equivalent to moving the Philippines backward. Socio-political inertia is the Duterte administration’s greatest enemy: a society at rest will remain at rest until an external force is strong enough to move it. The Duterte administration can only get things done by applying enough force that results in movement; the opposition merely has to apply enough resistance to make it look like Duterte is ineffective. The opposition simply has to not lose.
Both sides (pro- and anti-Duterte) will inevitably use and abuse the following quote: “All that it takes for evil to prosper is for good men to do nothing.” For each of them, the other represents evil.
As much as we don’t want to reduce this to a choice for “the lesser evil”, it is inevitable.
One side is evil in the sense that it is willing to shake up the Filipinos’ pre-conceived notions and biases of what the Philippines can and should be. That same side is deemed evil, because it seems willing to accept human casualties to get what it wants, and because it is willing to sacrifice “entitlements” for yet-to-be-named long-term gains. The figurehead of this side is brusque, uncouth, incorrigible, and leaves a bad taste in the mouth, if you’re not used to him.
The other side, quite simply, pretends to be clean, but actually isn’t. Its historical way of “solving problems” is pretending that they don’t exist. This side is interested in opposition, not to round out pro-citizen discussions, but because it is simply hungry for power.
Go forward with Duterte, or slide backward with the Liberal Party – Filipinos have indeed left themselves little choice.
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- The hypocrisy of condemning Mocha Uson’s appointment to the Duterte government - May 12, 2017