The harshest critics of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte have in recent days exhibited again the abject darkness of their character. Speculation on the health of the president following his conspicuous absence from this year’s Independence Day ceremony at the Rizal Park on the 12th June reached fever pitch as Netizens from the usual camps fielded scornful quips over social media; many wondering out loud about the whereabouts of “President No-Show”.
Despite assurance coming from Malacanang that the president is just “resting” as well as suggestions coming from the likes of Senator JV Ejercito to focus on more important things considering the seriousness of events currently transpiring, anti-Duterte social media “influencers” remained on a vitriolic rampage over that period. Most disturbing of all are the most influential of the lot wishing Duterte was dead.
I am torn about Duterte’s condition. To wish for his death is undeniably the most human reaction to the monstrosity that we’re facing. If his mortality means an end to the killings, the fakery, the gross abuses, then so be it; it will be a relief, especially to those powerless against his machinery of violence, of dehumanizing fakery. If Duterte is sick, and it appears his condition is worsening, then I am also one of those who wish that his sickness will put an end to our suffering.
But I also agree with those who want Duterte to be alive so he can face justice, those who believe that he should be denied the grace that mortality gives to all, good or evil. The court of humanity first before facing death. There should be reckoning about his crimes, he and his cohorts should live the rest of his life behind bars, and his crime should be told, again and again, not to cause pain to him and his loved ones, but to remind him and supporters of his regime the truth that no fakery or lies can erase: that Duterte and his cohorts killed thousands without just cause, and what they did is not just a crime against Filipinos but a crime against humanity.
I want this reckoning to happen to deny his industrial complex of online trolls the myth that they can use to immortalize their own fakery. I want this reckoning to happen in an impartial court to show his online trolls that they have been insulting our conscience by reducing this issue as a case of dilawan envy; that a lie repeated by a thousand shares is still a lie. Dead or alive, I want Duterte and his cohorts to face reckoning and justice until the truth becomes the ember that comforts those who suffered, until truth becomes a burning coal inside the throats of Duterte’s grand liars.
Interesting, but hardly surprising, is how Bagas uses a single flawed argument as the pillar of this tirade — the notion that Duterte had personally perpetrated the “killing” of thousands of innocent Filipinos. This he spells out verbatim in his assertion “that Duterte and his cohorts killed thousands without just cause”. What seems to altogether escape Bagas’s and other anti-Duterte activists’ sloppy thinking is the reality that the causal chains that link street deaths in the raging “war on drugs” along the commands and decisions that led to them is long and full of many variables. A hasty conclusion that Duterte and his so-called “cohorts” perpetrated these killings in a premeditated way and with malice cannot even be regarded as an error in judgment. It is a downright irresponsible act of spinning absolute fiction into seditious propaganda.
Bagas’s justification for his wish that Duterte be dead pretty much encapsulates the general position of Duterte’s critics — and the dangerously convoluted thinking around which they build their virulent ideology. It is a soul-crushing ideology that seeks to block a march towards reform — reform that could ultimately dismantle the hold of an entrenched oligarchy on an entire national economy.
According to Duterte’s critics, the president is the singular cause of Filipinos’ “suffering today”. “If Duterte is sick, and it appears his condition is worsening, then I am also one of those who wish that his sickness will put an end to our suffering,” Bagas writes. This is the same kind of thinking that propped up the moral ascendancy of the Aquino-Cojuangco “Yellow” brand that ruled Filipinos’ minds for 30 years — the idea that Filipinos’ suffering was caused by a single “evil”, that of former President Marcos’s Martial Law “regime”.
30 years worth of history that serves as proof that this was a false concept — that Martial Law was not the singular cause of Filipinos’ suffering and impoverishment — did nothing to change the nature of the tired rhetoric used by the Yellow camp to demonise people who they perceive threatens their sacred — and profitable — status quo. To this day, they raise monumental stinks about the “evils” of Martial Law and how its most recent incarnation in Mindanao, raised by Duterte to facilitate the eradication of a terrorist malaise threatening to engulf the region, spells doom for a nation of “freedom-loving” people.
Filipinos on the Yellow Camp seem to suffer from thinking that is laced with too much Catholic upbringing. All good necessarily emanate from God or the godly and all evil necessarily emanate from some kind of Satan figure or from various devilish incarnations. This kind of thinking is clearly evident in their politics; their prayerful goodness still embodied by the Aquinos. What they are trying to do today is reconstruct the new bad guy in their political narrative now that the Marcoses have all but vindicated themselves before a public weary of the Yellow rhetoric. The effort is coming across as desperate and futile. As evident in the convoluted logic people like Jonas Bagas use to formulate a much-needed Opposition ideology, nobody seems to be intellectually up to the task.
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