Strong nation, iron fist rule may be the path forward for the Philippines

Is Professor Randy David giving up on liberal democracy and being a progressive leftist militant? The ideology of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) is based on Maoist principles and yet, it is convenient for them to mouth insults and pro-Philippine epithets against their former patrons. Yet here is David seemingly touching on the hard truth in his piece Inquirer today “America and China: A tale of two systems”…

China’s eradication of mass poverty, its sustained growth, and its successful elevation to middle class status of a sizable segment of its population, appear to validate the vision of a strong nation led by a strong single-party State. Alas, it is democratic America that seems to be languishing economically, its institutions unable to fully arrest the drift toward populist authoritarianism.

The economic rise of China appears to be a Deng Xiao Ping and Lee Kuan Yew collaboration. Singapore can afford a certain level of “democracy” because of its population. China can’t because it has over a billion people. The US has a population of 320M and look at where it is at presently. The divide which brought the US Civil War on has been rekindled because the reforms weren’t put in place after the war ended with Abraham Lincoln’s assassination. The civil rights movement of the 60s ended with the Kennedy brothers’ assassination. Johnson did what he could but the Vietnam War prevented him from seeking another term. Trump’s win over Clinton in 2016 validated the sentiment that Roger Ailes realized when he organized Fox News for Rupert Murdoch.

Most liberals don’t realize the irony of how their desire for huge profits is one of the reasons why the social divide in the US has grown wider. America’s immigration problem is largely the result of its need for cheaper labor. The result is a potent mixture for unrest as what happened last January at the Capitol. What’s more interesting is the similarities between American liberal elitist mindsets with that of their Filipino counterparts. The landlocked states are the equivalent of the bobotantes Filipino elitists use to refer to the masses. What the Pinoy elitists don’t realize is the masses are waking up to the reality. They were largely responsible for the win of President Rodrigo Duterte in 2016.

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David is a sociologist by training. The basis of his column today may be his realization that their cause in the Opposition is a lost one considering how they have thrown everything at Duterte and still managed to get nowhere in their bid to turn public opinion against him. It has been a week since his predecessor former President Noynoy “PNoy” Aquino passed away and his death has had no quantifiable impact on public opinion despite Opposition efforts to get the people to see him in a better light. Perhaps the people still cannot forget what they went through during his term no matter how much it was made to look like he was one of the better Presidents the country ever had.

The 2022 election is crucial because it is either a validation or a rejection of Duterte’s definition of democracy. Duterte is no Lee Kuan Yew by most measures but he has shown he is capable of making those who need to toe the line, toe the line. There is the direct threat to then Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano who refused to vacate his post to give way to his replacement. There is also the manner in which he gave the oligarchs who control the water distribution concession for the National Capital Region (NCR) no leeway when the water shortage hit in the summer of 2019. Cabinet level officials have been fired by Duterte, very much unlike the PNoy who tolerated bickering and inconsistent direction pursued by different Cabinet members. Just the other day, Duterte issued a veiled threat to Senate President Tito Sotto. Consider me a candidate for Vice-President. That was his way of telling Sotto I can still derail your political plan for 2022.

In a democracy, there is room for a mature and responsible opposition to act as a fiscalizer but not as a stumbling block to nation-building. It is unfortunate that those who have an eye at the Presidency still continue with their brickbats against the administration. This will not win them points with voters. The best strategy is to acknowledge the good which has been done and build on that. It should be an issues-based campaign focusing on public sentiment rather the old mindset of destructive criticism. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that the more you hit Duterte the more his base closes ranks to protect him.

Potential candidates shouldn’t pass up on the opportunity to give those who are not in favor of Duterte’s style an intelligent choice in the coming polls by clearly articulating their vision of what an alternative path might look like. This is the essence of democracy. And who knows, if their argument is good enough, they just might win.

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