A little more than a year since Duterte assumed the presidency, an extensive list already highlights how he may not be the messiah who has come to redeem the Philippines, as many believe, but perhaps more of a demon who’s out to drag the Filipino nation down to the depths of damnation.
A Lie That’s Pretty Much In Your Face
It’s a sentiment increasingly amplified daily by commuters and motorists alike as they now face the most horrendous traffic situations of all time as a result of dysfunctional systems, makeshift solutions that border stupidity, and a sheer lack of vision or even common sense. Especially in Metro Manila’s main thoroughfares like EDSA and Commonwealth Avenue, the gaping traffic chaos, the gross negligence of measures on commuter management and public safety, and the dismal failure in implementing crucial transport programs—have all churned up a paralyzing confluence that’s brought the rat race into a virtual gridlock.
Daylight on this matter seems nowhere in the horizon as propositions by authorities are mostly founded on false assumptions or visions anchored on expensive infrastructure that are highly vulnerable to corruption and kickback scams. The immediate recourse, should mobility be a top imperative, still boils down to a rude imposition of mass ban on vehicles like the number coding scheme by the MMDA or, as was done in the recent ASEAN Summit: devise a special lane for “entitled” VIPs while cordoning off the rest of commuting public. Banking on the promise that Duterte will solve the traffic mess in 3 months, the public is now left with no other alternative but to wrangle through the maddening grind, many scratching their heads in bewilderment.
Rail transit couldn’t even present a viable option as the MRT operations have recorded more fails per week than any of the past administrations. It’s almost crazy that despite this, the DOTr has underspent its budget of P55.7 billion this year but then again is proposing to have a whopping P73.8 billion budget in 2018 after all its excuses for not being able to spend a smaller budget, nor execute its most vital programs to full effectiveness.
The ballooning frustration translates to a P4.1 billion daily loss in the nation’s economy, according to a Japanese study on Philippine traffic congestion. Left unresolved, the loss could spike to P6 billion in a couple of years. Needless to say, the traffic and transit problems are very obvious ones, and not veiled behind murky conspiracy theories. But many don’t see the worsening situation or the lack of any feasible solution as a failure of government, not the present government at least.
A Multitude In Denial
To the DDS (Duterte Die-hard Supporters), even questioning the practicability of any the Duterte government’s programs is a sin, whether you’re a yellow-loving Liberal Party fan who just can’t “move on”, or a Duterte supporter yourself and only curious about the government’s solutions to the current problems gripping our society. Almost rabid, pro-Duterte trolls will not hesitate to lambast anyone who is simply probing why SSS revenues dropped 67% in the first quarter of 2017 or why the peso has dropped against the dollar from P46 to P52 in less than two years. Some of the more intelligent DDS will patiently explain why these are so, even by just using bizarre conjecture and fallacies forcefully made to add up, but they will ultimately dismiss as anti-Duterte anyone who asks why these performance drops are all happening after Duterte became president. If you just ask why the slowdown of the GDP from 7% to 6.4% is coinciding with other negative trends like the unparalleled rise in prices of commodities, the inflation going up from 1% to 3.4%, or the unemployment rising to an alarming 5%—you’re an enemy of the state. If you show concern about human rights violations and extra-judicial killings happening in the course of Duterte’s so-called war on drugs—you’re a drug addict. And if you report something that might be damaging to the current administration, or even hint on just a little bit of incompetence—you’re a proliferator of fake news.
It’s not like it’s the concerned and confused public that’s been operating an elaborate propaganda machinery and using immense amounts of taxpayers’ money to disseminate falsehoods in the internet and social media. It’s not the legitimate media making things up, when they are simply reporting. And if it is the handful in the opposition party who are to blame for the things not going Duterte’s way, then what is the use of having an the alleged “super majority”? The fact is—the government’s stories are becoming more and more ridiculous, warranting clearer and vastly more sensible explanations. And, sadly, Duterte’s various, often vacillating stance on many issues could already be interpreted by many as symptoms of him not being in his right mind.
The Collapse of Logic
It takes a considerable amount of lunacy to believe there is logic in Duterte’s proclamations—that he is a Filipino patriot and loves his country extremely that he is willing to kill the scoundrels among his own people in order to safeguard the future generations, but with the same breath surrender national territory to the Chinese, allowing them to build artificial islands inside our exclusive economic zone while banning, on the other hand, Filipinos from building huts on islands near the ones already occupied by China via reclamation. He keeps on calling the disputed territory “South China Sea”, demonstrating a sharp pivot towards China’s sentiments in disregarding the United Nation’s arbitral decision which declared the territory is rightfully ours and duly called the West Philippine Sea…after promising during his campaign that he would jet-ski to the contested areas and protest against China’s intrusion. Months after saying he will unite Filipinos, he declared an all out war against Filipino leftists, ending peaceful negotiations with them, and yet he deems communist China great and sees former socialist Russia as an ally, allowing both nations to supply our country with arms, weapons that will probably only be used against Filipinos. Also, because he supposedly loves Filipinos so much, he’d rather have the police kill thousands of petty drug peddlers, poor Filipinos who have little options in life, than get to the bottom of the controversy about the P6.4 billion shipment of shabu where his own son and his son-in-law are reportedly involved, through the Bureau of Customs and probably bearing a Chinese connection. Russians caught smuggling illegal drugs to the country were also granted exemption from the law, as per his orders and words of assurance to Vladimir Putin that they will be detained in a “comfortable house”.
Why does Duterte think and act like China’s lapdog? After declining aid from the European Union which helps a lot of Filipinos, he quickly negotiated a high-interest loan from China that’s foreseen to put a strain on the working class as it will surely redound to tax increases. He’d have no hesitation whatsoever in uttering a firestorm of curses against the United States, the Pope or any head of state that criticizes his brutal war on drugs, but when it comes to China, he prefers to be mum on the most important issues like the intrusion upon our territory and the smuggling of illegal drugs. Instead, he’d enthusiastically announce to the Filipino people that “China is our friend”.
Would you expedite the release of imprisoned plunderers and let loose murderous policemen, if you were truly against criminality and corruption? Is it really equitable to conclude the evidences bearing the charges against Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, Jinggoy Ejercito, Janet Napoles, and Juan Ponce-Enrile hold less ground than that of Leila De Lima? How is it that accused “big name” plunderers are now practically exonerated while De Lima remains incarcerated on the basis of vague charges and flimsy testimonies? Don’t the rampant killings of drug suspects by the police only confirm on a national scale the Davao Death Squad which De Lima warned the public about?
Now on the verge of martial rule, we Filipinos are warranted to think deeper and apart from the noise generated by trolls and fake news. Are the threats of drug addicts, muslim extremists, or communists real—or just phantoms to sow fear among us? In our ruminations of the things we are told to fear, we must never forget that it was Duterte who challenged the Maute group to attack Marawi, and when they did he responded by razing the entire city and making its innocent residents pay dearly. And in both the destruction and the rehabilitation of Marawi, huge lump sums of money were disbursed in ways that remain to be scrutinized.
Duterte die-hard supporters are incapable of investigating the facts about the current administration as they are largely in denial. They support Duterte indiscriminately, no matter what, whether thoughtlessly or consciously. Many of them are foolish fanatics, refusing to see in fair light what is really going on, and in most cases driven by their disillusionment and hatred for the hypocritical Aquino administration which turned out as a huge failure in its attempt to epitomize good governance and the so-called “daang matuwid”. On the other hand, there are the Duterte beneficiaries, those who might know in their hearts what is true or not, and see the ills that are going on, but won’t make a stand, or will even fervently defend the faults--because of selfish interests. This lot probably benefits directly from the current administration or are “connected” to those who now brandish Duterte-enforced power and privilege.
At any rate, all Duterte supporters will have to wrestle with many irrationalities that may eventually take them to the point of insanity, depending on each individual's threshold for conscious denial. Those who cursed the Aquino administration then for the traffic woes during that time will have to be more patient of worse traffic and maintain the jaded mantra, “Change is coming”. Those who hated entitlement then may somehow feel they can turn a blind eye on the acts of bratty congressmen who want exemptions from traffic rules, or are forced to put up with the extra special treatments enjoyed by Mocha Uson. Those who were for honor and decency in government are now very understanding and tolerant of Duterte’s crass and cursing in public, excusing the foul language and the lies, as if decency suddenly was not a big deal to them anymore. The patriotic who used to warn about China’s invasive tendency are now OK with it. Those who despise the drug menace are constrained from digging deeper on the mysterious case of the P6.4 billion shabu haul at the Bureau of Customs, where officials involved were fastidiously exonerated or appointed to other lofty positions in government, and the only one in jail so far is the warehouse security guard. Those who were against increased taxes are suddenly applauding the massive across-the-board taxation happening now. The once religious Catholics among the DDS find themselves agreeing now with Duterte’s attacks on the church, or perhaps disagreeing but keeping the conflict quiet in their hearts. Those who resisted Martial Law then are now enthusiastically going with it. DDS may choose to deny the realities, but they will not be able to escape the dualities besieging them from the inside.
Most Duterte fanatics don’t believe in the reports of a Davao Death Squad, even if the daily newspapers report what could be its audacious manifestation on a national scale. They believe there are zero extra-judicial killings, even as the blood of the innocent stain our streets. They don’t see the gross human rights abuse. The don’t even care about human rights, or think human rights is only a privilege for Duterte supporters. They believe Marcos is a hero, and Martial Law is good for democracy. They saw the military doing the blasting in Marawi, the planes doing the bombing, and look at the devastated city now, with all its weeping inhabitants, and think with surety in their hearts, “This is Maute’s fault”. If anyone kills on Duterte’s order, he is a good guy, a hero, a defender of society. The slightest of the DDS will resort to blame the undeniable failings on the incompetent people around Duterte, but never him. It’s idolatry just the same.
The DDS believe because their idol says so. It’s not a crime or a sin if he says it’s not. Impelled by their loyalty to a strange, war-mongering and blasphemous idol, their convictions are narrowed down to praising Duterte Almighty, as one who does no wrong, is good and perfect, and infallible….almost like God. If Duterte says it, it’s automatically law, it’s scripture, it’s dogma and the only thing that is right. Anything that is against Duterte is against them, and they feel extremely obligated to defend him. The way things are going, if Christ came back today, it wouldn’t be so absurd to assume that people would choose Duterte over Him, should the Lord dare speak to condemn the summary killings or the extended marital law in Marawi. Many Filipinos ended up cursing the Catholic Church, the bishop and even the Pope, because Duterte did.
Duterte’s trust and performance ratings are down, and many are starting to believe he cannot fulfill all his promises…even his pronouncements of “change” on the most fundamental issues. Duterte himself admits he was wrong is his assumptions and estimates. Yet, to the DDS, it’s “Duterte pa rin”. It’s like mass brainwashing, where many do not hope for the nation’s good anymore, but only hope not to meet Duterte’s ire.
But to the more open-minded, even those not aligned with the hated Liberal Party, it’s becoming easier and easier to accept the simple possibility—that the economic slide, the hysteria and violence in the streets, the escalated threats of terrorism and insurgency, the widespread injustice and chaos in our courts, the evident power struggles and the blatant disregard for the Constitution and human rights gripping the nation today…could all be because of one man—the Filipino idol, the fascist Philippine president charged in the International Criminal Court for mass murder and crimes against humanity.
*Published in print version (Voice of the South, Volume 13, No. 7)