Written by Erwin S. Fernandez.
How can one explain the Duterte phenomenon? Firstly Duterte provides an option in which security of persons and property is guaranteed in an environment where they are taken for granted and the rule of law is followed only at the whims and caprices of authorities. Second, Duterte managed to ride on the popularization of federalism federalism , which is the result of the awakening of various ethnicities in the country to the possibilities of representation absent in unitarist system. Consciousness of economic underdevelopment and emasculation of cultural diversity found in the countryside enabled these ethnic nations – neither tribes nor ethnolinguistic groups – to assert their cultural pride and strive for economic independence from the metropolis. The next step to this equation is quasi-political independence by way of federalism.
This paradigm shift happened at the onset of the new millennium to mid-2000s when various ethnies recognized their political, economic and cultural disenfranchisement as imposed from imperial Manila. Duterte has called Mindano has been colonized by the Manila elite. The time is ripe for federalism and a shift to a parliamentary system.
Presidential politics and constitutional reform
Personalistic and cacique leadership have characterized the presidential system in which the president becomes the fount and dispenser of favors to partymates. Pork barrel, the source of graft and corruption, is distributed to secure loyalty in Congress for the passage of laws. While checks and balances are meant to restrain the powers among the three branches in government, it sometimes leads to gridlock. The vice-president is an unnecessary office playing second fiddle to the president.
In the post-war Philippine politics, Senate President Jose Avelino, a Waray, said, “We are not angels. What are we in power for?” when he was accused of corruption by building campaign funds from US surplus for his presidential ambition. Will Duterte whose handlers pitch an incorruptible Digong be the first president with Waray roots and a Mindanaoan? Will he be the one to put stop to pork barrel and who could unite the country toward constitutional reform?
Opening the country to foreign investments by dismantling the protectionist provisions in the constitution does not mean neglecting the need toward national industrialization. Protectionist policies have only protected the old oligarchic class as well as former Marcos cronies in the country driving Filipinos in droves to look for jobs abroad. The Philippines lags behind other ASEAN members in terms of foreign investments, because of protectionist clauses in the constitution. The Left has always lamented the government’s labor export policy but never bothered to look at the possibility of foreign direct investments to spur growth in the countryside. The reason is that the continued impoverishment of the country makes their advocacy for armed revolution still enticing and appealing to youth while its top brass leaders reside in self-imposed exile. The time has come to end armed resistance in favor of parliamentary struggle, something that the old Partido Komunista ng Pilipinas (PKP) did in 1946 through the Democratic Alliance but only became a victim of state-sponsored harassment by Mar’s grandfather.
Uncouth provincial versus prim and proper but corrupt national elite
In the present constitution, safeguards are in place to prevent the return of dictatorship. No matter how glib Duterte is in saying that he will abolish Congress once he is in power, he knows he cannot do that. Though he describes himself as leftist and socialist, it remains to be seen how his leftism and socialism would manifest if he wins. If he is true to his word that following the law should not be a choice but a must, killing of journalists and the extrajudicial killings should have no place in his presidency so that Davao Death Squad must now be a relic of his past.
By refusing to receive large monetary donations from big business, Duterte rejects anything that will stand in the way of his political and economic agenda for the country. These businessmen will become political baggage once they demand concessions from him that will compromise the national or people’s interests. In fact, his populist appeal came in part from his strategy of involving the people throughout the country in his nationwide campaign. Mass mobilization in the grassroots is erroneously seen as the making of a fascist movement. The fanaticism observed in a Duterte supporter is no different from the devotion of a Daang Matuwid’s adherent. They will vote for their respective candidates, right or wrong.
The image of Duterte as a lowly provincial storming Manila sends shivers to the spine of national elite and kingmakers. Maverick with a mind of his own, Duterte does not mince his words to criticize institutions and establishments. Of all the presidentiables, it was only Duterte who proposes a complete revamp of the whole system, something that alarms the oligarchy that supports Roxas, Poe and Binay. With Roxas, the elitism and incompetence of the incumbent will continue; with Poe, the interest of Danding Cojuangco and other Marcos cronies will be protected; with Binay, the same oligarchic class will benefit in his misrule.
Digong will win in the elections. The Visayans and Mindanaoans should not miss this chance. In the counting, however, in which cheating operators with the connivance of Smartmatic and the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) he will lose but this will drive the people to revolution in the provinces. Will the outcome lead to the balkanization of the country? Let the will of the people prevail and the country will remain united as one.
Erwin S. Fernandez is an independent researcher based in Urdaneta City. This article forms part of IAPS continuing coverage of the Philippines general election. Image credit: Screencap/Youtube.