The other day, we heard the incumbent Vice-President Leni Robredo make a statement about her being tempted to ask for blanket authority to be the head the government’s pandemic response. Just when you think that was too funny, here comes Randy David trying to top the VP’s idiotic rant in his Inquirer piece today “The making of a tyrant”. There, he makes the usual fantastic but overused shrill assertion…
Over the last five years, Mr. Duterte has never hesitated to bare the naked force behind the veneer of presidential power. He has shown no qualms in deploying the official mechanisms of the state to avenge a deeply personal grudge, or to repay a private debt. He finds absolutely nothing wrong in this, for he himself acknowledges that that’s exactly what he’s doing. Many of his admirers applaud this candor as yet another manifestation of his authenticity.
David was the cone who coined the label Dutertismo to refer to the President’s politics. It hasn’t really taken off even within the Opposition ranks. Only he and Richard Heydarian ever use the label. It generally means Duterte’s brand of “populism” in their book. The question the two academics have never addressed is why is this “tyrant” popular when the opposite is normally true with tyrants?
In the case of former President Ferdinand Marcos, what had Filipinos turning against him was corruption, the ostentatious lifestyle of his wife Imelda, and the “assassination” of Ninoy Aquino in 1983. It divided the country into two camps but the effect thirty years hence has been the revival of the Marcos political fortunes. Marcos’s son former Senator Bongbong Marcos is a viable candidate for any national post he runs for. The same is true with his sister Imee.
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The Opposition still does not acknowledge its failures. It still uses the same tired strategy it had used against its political enemies in the past thirty years. Witness how Joseph “Erap” Estrada was discredited through “corruption” and Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (GMA) subject to the same with the usual military rebellion thrown in. Even if the means are illegal, the “good” versus “evil” narrative applies which is enough justification for the Opposition. God is on their side, they claim. This is why the Catholic Church has largely lost its clout in society. The Catholic vote has evaporated. It is the Iglesia Ni Cristo (INC) that remains dominant in the religious aspect which is why politicians still court their head for votes in every election cycle, even if they are Catholic or have their own religious organization like the Villanuevas of Jesus is Lord.
The latest political stage show began two weeks ago and has no end in sight until probably the end of the year. It’s like a Broadway run that is dependent on public mileage for its longevity. The President doesn’t take anything sitting down which is where David gets his bases for accusing him of being a tyrant and using his office as a “bully pulpit’. How dare David when Duterte’s predecessor, former President Noynoy Aquino, was more politically vindictive as in the case of his vendetta against then Supreme Court Justice Renato Corona and his political enemies who were persecuted by then Secretary of Justice Leila De Lima.
The President is aware of the show being staged by today’s Senators which is why it is now down to mudslinging. In the midst of the pandemic, it would be more productive if the Senators focused on budget realignments, an activity more attuned to their job description. Let the Commission on Audit (COA) finalize their findings first. But this won’t happen because of a pressing need to exploit every opportunity to sabotage the incumbent administration which is also why David comes out with another stupid piece where he accuses the President of overreach, hence the “tyrant” label.
The truth is, this is why Duterte continues to be popular. He has his finger on the public pulse. If he were to give in to his personal sentiments then we would probably see him go after his political enemies. But even in that aspect, Duterte is a maverick. He lets his political enemies make fools of themselves on the national stage. This is why he confidently challenges the public “talunin niyo mga Senador na yan,” meaning “don’t vote for these Senators in whatever office they run for”. What it comes down to is a high-stakes game of political poker. It’s a gamble on both parties because the President has to contend with an independent-minded daughter and squabbling within his political coalition. The same is true with the Opposition which is also politically-divided. Indeed, this late in the election cycle, only one tandem has been finalized and they will have their formal launch on September 8.
The public has had enough of the political noise. With the Delta-induced surge raging, their priorities are jobs, education for their children and public health in terms of surviving this pandemic. If the opposition isn’t careful, they might be in for a rude awakening come May 2022. Duterte may be a tyrant from the point of view of the Opposition and its hacks but to the public he is THEIR tyrant, the one who protects their interests.
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