A tweet issued yesterday by Inquirer columnist Dax Lucas resonated loudly across the Philippines’ Netizens:
The country’s so-called enlightened class in near panic over the prospects of a Duterte presidency. What a fascinating sight to behold.
Indeed, the elegant simplicity of this tweet hit me hard too and, finally, how I really feel about these 2016 presidential elections became a lot clearer when it sunk in. I regard a Philippines ruled by President Rodrigo Duterte with mere bemusement.
Duterte is really just the end product of many years of political discourse marked by a poignant irrelevance in the issues of the day that stood out and the triumph of all the wrong arguments. Indeed, the ascent to power of incumbent President Benigno Simeon ‘BS’ Aquino III himself represents the single biggest failure of post-1986 Philippine “democracy”. In Aquino, we see the result of the folly in the fatal assumption underlying Filipinos’ embrace of democracy as embodied in Cory Aquino’s 1987 Constitution: the idea that;
What is popular represents what is right.
It was easy to bandy around the notion that a president’s mandate to govern is granted by virtue of the Filipino vote when the winning candidate embodies all of what “polite society” regard as the “right” characteristics. Aquino, supposedly, had all the right stuff — the son of prayerful national “heroes”, the one anointed by the Philippines’ self-described “thought leaders”, the Reluctant One who, as the thinking went, won’t be blinkered by power because he did not want it to begin with (supposedly).
And this is where the magnificence in Lucas’s tweet comes in. The most recent product of the Filipino Vote, a man who is everything Aquino is not, is now the subject of the screechy lament of the very same bozos who, just six years ago, pompously drumbeat ad nauseum the “triumph” of the very same “power of the people”.
“Aquino is president because the people had spoken!” Back then, in 2010, this was a convenient truth. Unfortunately, today, the truth is not only INconvenient, it is also confronting.
The rise of Rodrigo Duterte says a lot about what the Filipino people have become after 30-years of Cory’s “democracy”. Or, perhaps, it revealed what Filipinos really are — really always have been since 1946 after being granted “independence” by the United States. Filipinos did not really fail because there was less democracy, or that because there was too much democracy, or even because they were ruled by the Spaniards, or because they were ruled by the United States, or, yes, because America’s armies still march all over its territories shagging its women.
Perhaps the real lesson to be learned here is that the Filipino people are, quite simply, incapable of succeeding collectively under any circumstances. In short, there really is no “inclusive growth” to aspire for, because, in truth, the spoils of economic growth are exclusively for the picking of individuals and families who possess cluey enough minds and spot-on enough attitudes to recognise opportunities when these come knocking.
In reality, Filipinos have no excuse for failure. They are custodians of a land rich in natural resources situated in a region that is one of the most if not the most enterprising in the world. People who are destined for astounding wealth and greatness overcome the odds and navigate around all the roadblocks. They do not make them excuses to fail.
Unfortunately, one will find that most if not all Philippine history books are a trove of such excuses. The historical account in those books speak to the character of the Filipino — a people who embrace the comfy warmth of excuses to fail rather than venture out into the cold and tread the confronting dark frostiness of the road to success.
It is therefore pointless to scare Filipinos into thinking that a Duterte presidency will be a plunge back into the “dark ages” of “authoritarianism” because that is simply missing the point of the insights history has to offer. The real point is that the last 30 years have demonstrated that Filipinos are experts at failing both under a dictatorship and under a “free” democracy. Filipinos’ predisposition to failure does not lie in their politics. Failure is hardwired into the very fabric of their culture. As such, it is at this level where change needs to happen.
Plastic surgery does not cure an ugly gene. A genetically ugly person requires a drastic mutation at the molecular level. Filipinos can change presidents, can change their politics, can change their Constitution all they want. But until they change their culture, success will elude them.
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