Filipinos are coming to terms with the political reality underlying the presidential race today. Following the EDSA “revolution” in 1986, the pendulum had swung too far out the side of ultra-representative “democracy” in the Philippines. As a result, the deeply disturbing reality of the true nature of the way Filipinos have squandered their “freedom” has all been revealed. Rather than apply a mature discipline and sense of accountability in the way they exercise their democratic freedoms and rights, Filipinos have, instead, used their freedom to turn their country into a sad global punchline.
It is hardly surprising. Politicians who are products of the popular vote reflect the character of their constituents. So if, now, Filipinos lament the banal thievery of their government officials, the mediocrity in the thinking applied to development goals, and the incompetence of their top leaders and sovereigns, the highways of blame lead nowhere else but back to themselves.
Indeed, the culmination of the culture of worshipping the notion of “sacrifice” that Filipinos have perverted beyond all recognition and, on the back of this, the favour bestowed on politicians who pander singularly to this perverse rule of “sacrifice” is no less than current President Benigno Simeon ‘BS’ Aquino III, son of the late former President Corazon ‘Mrs Sacrifice’ Aquino.
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Something’s gotta give. And evidently something has today. After three decades of emo governance, sacrifice platforms and mediocrity agendas have been pitched once too many to Filipinos and now two politicians representing the antitheses of bakla politics have emerged as serious contenders — Rodrigo Duterte and Bongbong Marcos.
As compelling challengers to the no-results victim-mentality-pandering campaigns that dominated presidential elections over the last 30 years, Duterte and Marcos are seen by many Filipinos as leaders who offer a roadmap that could see the Philippines return to the stoic disciplined meritocracy it once was. Indeed, none of the other candidates offer any semblance of a vision to begin with. Administration candidate Mar Roxas, for one, is seen to be no more than a sad compromise for the once-venerable Liberal Party. The Daang Matuwud (‘straight path’) doctrine that started out as a campaign catchphrase of BS Aquino back in the 2009 campaign has long been tainted by the incumbent administration’s bald six-year-long reign of hypocrisy. Under the Aquino administration, pork barrel thievery was perpetrated at unprecedented scales and appalling human rights abuses were not only tolerated but sanctioned by Malacanang.
Indeed, BS Aquino has been slammed by no less than the United Nations for his human rights abuses thanks to the efforts of international lawyer Amal Alamuddin who earlier this year brought the case of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to the UN High Commission on Human Rights Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) which recently ruled that her detention under the Aquino regume was “arbitrary” and, therefore, unwarranted.
In her e-mail [to her Filipino lawyer, Lorenzo Gadon], Clooney said the UN body found Arroyo’s detention arbitrary and illegal because “the Sandiganbayan failed to take into account her individual circumstances, failed to consider measures alternative to pretrial detention, and because of undue delays in proceedings against her.”
The WGAD also found her detention “politically motivated” because her confinement was due to “her exercise of her right to take part in government and the conduct of public affairs” and “because of her political… opinion,” Clooney said.
She reported that the UN body underscored the Aquino administration’s decision to stop Arroyo from traveling in November 2011 in defiance of a Supreme Court ruling allowing her to seek medical treatment for her neck and spine illnesses.
But Aquino one-upped all his predecessors by upping the ante of criminal rule. The possibility of President BS Aquino dabbling in high treason may also be emerging. Investigators both in the Philippines and in other countries may already be in the process of piecing together the puzzle of what exactly was behind the involvement of embattled Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak in Aquino’s controversial Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) project. Left to the devices of BS Aquino and his shadowy partnership with Kuala Lumpur, a vast chunk of Mindanao would have been carved out and handed over to the terrorist Moro Islamic Liberation Front which at one time or another in its history had been funded in various capacities by the Malaysian government.
And what do detractors of Duterte and Marcos deliver in the way of intelligent arguments in light of all of the above? Predictable ones. They cater mainly to the tired old assumption that Filipinos continue to harbour an irrational fear of a return to the bad old days of “authoritarian” rule. In the case of Duterte, it is his track record of turning the southern Philippine city of Davao into a model metropolis with an iron-fisted leadership style that is admired by constituents and condemned by the chattering classes of Imperial Manila up north.
As for Bongbong Marcos’s detractors, the epic tantrums they are throwing over his recently-announced candidacy centres around just three quaint points:
(1) He is the son of former President Ferdinand Marcos.
(2) He and his family should return their “ill-gotten wealth” first.
(3) He may declare martial law again during his term.
But is there anything else beyond these?
(sound of chirping crickets in the background)
Specifically, is there anything about the possibility of seeing a Marcos Vice Presidency that one can argue against that has something to do with how he might actually perform his duties during his term?
Unfortunately, Filipinos are known for their inability to think that far ahead and focus on relevant arguments that pass the So What? Test. This can be gleaned when one closely examines the nature of their support for the other presidential candidates. The support for these candidates is underpinned by shallow ideas lacking in substance. The thinking is focused on concepts of “honesty” (i.e. lack of a history of “dishonesty”, for one), “sacrifice”, and none much else. Instead of true platforms these politicians exhibit mere lists of issues they promise to “tackle” if elected all of which do nothing but insult the already meagre intelligence of their supporters.
In contrast to the rest of the uninspiring presidential candidates, Duterte and Marcos do offer something different — an alternative to the idiotic dogma of the Yellow rhetoric that dominated Philippine politics for 30 years. All it takes is a bit of imagination to think outside the square that has framed the Philippine political “debate” over the last several decades. It is time Filipinos think beyond their girly fear of “martial law”, their infantile aversion to disciplined governance, and their lazy habit of substituting modern logical thinking with a fixation on political superstition.
benign0 is the Webmaster of GetRealPhilippines.com.