The return of former Davao City mayor Rodrigo Duterte to the Philippines’ 2016 presidential election race says a lot about how little of a foothold real “democracy” has made in Philippine society. Democracy is not just about “freedom” and “elections”. It is also about justice and discipline. Duterte’s main value proposition to Filipino voters addresses those latter two key pillars of any just and truly free society and takes the bull by the horns by revolving around one thing: taking a tough approach to addressing rampant criminality in the Philippines.
This simple platform in combination with the clear track record of results he boasts in its application in Davao makes Duterte the only presidential candidate that presents what all the rest lack: (1) a strong track record of governance and administration, (2) a clear ralllying platform, and (3) the leadership attitude and chops to deliver.
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But does Duterte fit the mold of a true “democratic” leader?
The answer to that question should begin by first asking the more fundamental question.
Is democracy in the Philippines working for ordinary Filipinos as we are being led to believe?
Easy. Elections have proven to hardly ever matter to ordinary Filipinos. One would be hard-pressed to cite specifics around how one president or the other truly made a difference to the ordinary Filipino. But consider recent developments in that specific aspect of state governance that matters the most to Filipinos — law enforcement. Because the Philippines is an abject failure in that basic state function, it becomes easy to pitch alternatives — even though these may not necessarily be within the framework of the law. Even crooks and enemies of the state can now claim to be “anti-crime” champions. Indeed, two of the Philippines’ biggest jungle bandit groups have recently scored public relations points by “going after” the illegal drugs trade within their “territories”.
The terrorist Moro Islamic Liberation Front have, for their part, reportedly recently styled themselves an anti-drug crusader in Mindanao…
The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) has ordered its field commanders to engage in a campaign against illegal drugs in Maguindanao and other areas covered by a government-MILF ceasefire agreement, Inquirer.net reported Sunday.
The central committee of the MILF, which signed a 2014 peace deal with the government, has adopted a resolution supporting the order aimed at combating drugs, particularly methamphetamine hydrochloride, or “shabu”.
The group has placed posters across Maguindanao warning that “illegal drug is the root of all evil.”
And, not to be outdone, the terror arm of the Communist Party of the Philippines, the New People’s Army (NPA), have also engaged in their own campaign to summarily gun down suspected drug traders in their “territories”. According to the same report, the NPA have recently “executed four suspected drug dealers as part of its separate campaign.” It is, however, interesting to note that the NPA have, themselves, been found to be large-scale cultivators of marijuana plantations in their areas own and have reportedly used proceeds from the trade in these illegal products to fund their terror operations.
What does all these say about criminal justice in the Philippines? Nothing other than what is glaringly obvious: that vigilante justice is becoming increasingly attractive to Filipinos.
A Rodrigo Duterte presidency will be the ultimate triumph of this sort of West-of-the-Pecos style of law and order. Backdropped against the failure of successive traditional Philippine governments to deliver on the promise of building a “just” society through lawful means, Duterte’s promise of swift express-lane justice resonates strongly amongst a crime-weary public. Its lack of any of the complications of due process which, ironically, makes Philippine justice hopelessly paralysed by its own checks-and-balances flies in the face of the tired and convoluted rhetoric of traditional presidential campaigns Filipino voters have tuned out from.
Indeed, six years of the blatant hypocrisy in the Daang Matuwid (“straight path”) sloganeering of the current administration under Philippine President Benigno Simeon ‘BS’ Aquino III may have been the final nail on the coffin of any pretense that the Philippines is a “just” society. There should be no surprise in the way Filipinos are now embracing a starkly real alternative to the farce of the so-called “democracy” we were led to believe was in effect since 1986. Even if we have, for decades, reminded ourselves “Never Again!”, Filipinos deserve a repeat of history. Perhaps the second try may be the charm.
benign0 is the Webmaster of GetRealPhilippines.com.