[OPINION | Newspoint] How far can Duterte go?
An increasingly anxious discussion goes on about how far Rodrigo Duterte intends to go with his presidential powers, but it seems poorly focused.
Given what he has managed to do within just over a year with those powers, and still threatens to do with them, there’s no telling where he will stop. Perhaps the more pertinent and useful question is, What will stop him?
For sure, alone, Duterte cannot do what he wants. But that provides scarce consolation. With good numbers at the polls — a high numerical majority, in fact — how could he feel alone? With the laughs he gets for his crude utterances as a validation, why shouldn’t he dish out more and more of them?
But tasteless theater is the least of our worries. What he has done truly horrifically is to get the institutions expected precisely to restrain him – Congress and the judiciary – to play along. They, in fact, look more like colluders than restrainers.
An egregious case involves Senator Leila de Lima. She has languished in jail for 8 months now, victim of presidential vendetta. All Duterte had to do was mark her – for daring to investigate him for death-squad murders during his autocratic mayoralty of Davao City. Her investigation started when she was chairperson of the Commission on Human Rights and he mayor, and it continued when she became senator and he president. Confessed assassins have testified against him.
De Lima herself is accused of dealing in illegal drugs. The case was cooked in Congress without any concrete evidence and almost entirely on the testimonies of life-term convicts herded by Duterte’s justice secretary, himself the penitentiary’s chief boss; yet, for all the hallmarks of conspiracy and concoctions, the Supreme Court found everything regular and denied de Lima such basic humanitarian gesture as it was only to quick to grant far less deserving beneficiaries – bail for temporary freedom.
In other cases, Duterte needs only his police to do his bidding, such as in his war against drugs, which has taken thousands of lives and given rise to widespread accusations of extrajudicial killings (EJK, in the more popular reference).
Possibly feeling confident that it is time he made his big push toward authoritarianism, a goal he has made no secret of from the start, he now warns about it more often and sternly; he also says he prefers a revolutionary government to a martial-law dictatorship. As if a choice is offered and one offer might be more palatable than the other, the debate inspired by Duterte’s threat seems, strangely, framed by questions like, Which is the more justifiable emergency? Is any emergency justifiable at all?
These questions seem to me to betray a sense of denial, if not a sense of resignation or defeat or some inclination toward compromise. Is it because the nation has been put in a situation so desperate the armed forces are its only hope and, having so far generally shown obedience to their commander in chief, these armed forces hardly inspire hope?
Realistically, the military, indeed, is the ultimate swing force, and Duterte knows it. That he has not pushed as much as he does reflects his own doubts about the measure of military support he had; that he’s now pushing ever harder might have to do with Marawi.
To Duterte, Marawi may well have been the supreme test of comradeship between him and his soldiers. They followed him to battle, and on to victory. Never mind the suspicions that he had himself provoked the confrontation, never mind the colossal cost it has exacted in lives and resources and continues to exact in prolonged suffering. As a military objective, Marawi should have been easy enough to justify in the context of the long-festering conflict between the central government and Muslim Mindanao and the more recent worldwide complication of Islamic terrorism.
But a revolutionary government? That is the ends of the earth. If they follow Duterte that far, the armed forces will be throwing away their finest moment, their moment of redemption, achieved in 1986 when they recommitted themselves to democracy as the Armed Forces of the Filipino People and, along with them, booted out the dictator.
They follow Duterte that far, and they will find themselves back in their moment of ignominy, back in 1972, when they strung along that same dictator, the very same one Duterte professes to idolize. – Rappler.com