I have always admired Amando Doronila of the Philippine Daily Inquirer. His articles are elegant, pithy and rapier sharp. But like any pundit, he can overstate a case. And while his opinion may not be that widely meaningful except to other members of the chattering classes still I think, he should be reminded that not everything he says is apt.
In his latest article, “Where are the bodies?’ (Philippine Daily Inquirer, 11 Dec 2015, A19), Doronila makes the outrageous statement, “Duterte is not only seeking the presidency, he is seeking the replication of the Davao experience of the Holocaust on a national scale…”
Let us parse the phrase, “…the Davao experience of the Holocaust…” . While holocaust is a generic term referring to a situation where many people are killed, to capitalize it (as in Holocaust) refers to the mass slaughter of Jewish civilians by the Nazis during World War 2, who were guilty only by virtue of being born Jews whom Hitler despised as a race.
What Duterte did in Davao was not a wholesale murder of innocents but a careful excision of proven criminal elements. There may have been errors in the death of innocents but to consider the execution of criminals as similar to the mass extermination of Jews is an unacceptable blunder in judgment and appears to be a malicious intent to misrepresent Duterte’s intentions.
He goes on to say, “…using presidential powers of coercion to implement a vast project driven by the doctrine underpinned by state sponsored violence.” First, “state-sponsored” violence” – Rafael Alunan 111, then head of the DILG, did say he fully supported Duterte who he says exercised “moral force as a form of self-defense” to protect his city from increasing criminal elements. That may sound like “state-sponsored violence”, however, you have to understand Alunan in the context of why it was so. He was aware of Duterte’s use of force to defend the people and their dream from rampant lawless elements and not for self-aggrandizment.
When the Americans gave up the Philippines because it was too costly for them, they left us with a vision of democracy but not the capacity to exercise it. We have not learned to live with the abstract precepts of law. What we need is leadership by example – that when we do wrong we will be disciplined, and when we do right we reap the benefits of a peaceful society.
As Peter Wallace wrote in his 28 May 2015 column in the Philippine Daily Inquirer, “…, in a society where crime goes mostly unpunished. Duterte’s solution is drastic in the extreme and, in the wrong hands, could be massively abused, as we saw during martial law. But if you rely on an inutile legal system the society remains at risk from ruthless criminals. So what do you do? Do you stick to the democratic ideal, or accept that the reality calls for a different solution?”
The liberally educated middle and upper class are keen in protecting the right of the individual which is only right; but to build a great society, the individual also needs to respect the greater community. In the Philippines, many who have flourished so far are those who have benefited from gaming the system either by political influence, crime or corruption. The people see that and demand a level playing field,not where “might makes right” but rather where “right is right”. And they see in Duterte precisely that opportunity.
For one, they want the balance of power to shift – from Manila to the provinces, through Federalism, to prevent those who are entrenched in the power structure from plundering what rightfully belongs to the people. They want safe and maneuverable cities and streets, like Davao. They want leaders who feel them, will be there when they are buffeted by disaster and circumstance, and actually help, not just talk help. They have seen that in Digong.
They appreciate projects like quick response 911; a city government that employs an extra 15,000 people to make up for the slack in job opportunities; clean city streets; and taxi drivers who bring you to your destination safely and give back the exact change.
They want to be part of a nation that works. A nation they can be proud of. A happy nation. They do not want drugs, or dealers, or kidnappers or rapists who move with impunity. They want crime to be punished. Job opportunities. peace and order for enterprise to flourish. And good work rewarded. How difficult is that to understand?
From the safe distance of Makati and maybe Canberra, where Doronila is right now, everything is viewed through the sterile grid of graphs and international news service. But on the ground, where it smells of corruption and impunity, the rules of the game are different.
Peter Wallace also wrote, “In a civilized society, such action (like Duterte’s) is reprehensible. But in a civilized society, the system of law works. In the Philippines, it very provably does not…”
We do not yet live in a civilized society where people respect and live by the system of law. That is exactly why we get the leaders we rightly deserve. Duterte, by liberal democratic standards is crudely undemocratic. Once upon a time, when Lee Kwan Yew was just starting the Singapore model, he was not so fancy either. But he had a vision for the nation, and did what had to be done. Duterte is in that league. He has an inclusive vision for the people which excludes those who intentionally break the law at the expense of greater good. Doronila confuses Duterte’s proven civil record with Hitler’s delusionary Reich.
Doronila says, “it is a mystery…why he is topping the opinion surveys.” It is no mystery to the masses. The people are not dumb. That is why they threw Marcos out. The people knew that Marcos was exercising power to enrich himself. But the people see that after 30 years, Duterte has not amassed wealth for himself. They appreciate the fact that he lives in a modest house in a modest subdivision, wears modest clothes and modest shoes. They do not begrudge his libido nor his uncouth language. Or, that he is willing to punish the wrong-doer.
They like the fact that he is just like them – an ordinary man with ordinary dreams. And what is that? A peaceful life in a peaceful nation. That is why his parents came to Mindanao. He knows this is what most Filipinos want – a chance at a better life. And he is ready to defend their right to fulfill their dreams.
No, Mr. Doronila, Duterte is not a Hitler. You do not get it nor him. He is what the people have long sought for – a leader who inspires them to find their own greatness. He is Everyman.