[OPINION] Faith and fanaticism
Rodrigo Duterte was brought into Malacañang by a huge tide of public frustration over a government deemed as callous and elitist. Strides were said to have been made in the economy but while the rich were perceived to be accumulating greater wealth, all that was left to the poor, it seemed, was dirt.
The government then was chastised for its arrogance in spending by no less than the Supreme Court. Both the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) and its successor, the Disbursement Allocation Program (DAP), were struck down by the High Court as unconstitutional. The PDAF was mired in the plunder of billions of the people's money in cases during the Arroyo administration, while several executive actions under the DAP were deemed unconstitutional. Funds released under DAP were also rumored to have been used to bribe members of the Senate, sitting as an impeachment court, to convict the late chief justice Renato Corona.
For all its touted merit and morality, the government then was also incompetent. In the beginning, it had bungled a hostage situation involving foreign visitors while the world watched on TV. One would think that such government would dedicate its resources to professionalizing its elite police forces in response to the dishonor that the incident brought.
In a Pyrrhic victory (it did net the government the finger of Malaysian terrorist alias Marwan) that only that government would call successful, 44 members of the Special Action Force were killed due to failures in coordination.
The liberal democracy espoused by that administration had failed the masses. While that is only reflective of a disturbing trend in global politics, it resulted in a massive wave of support for a candidate who was every bit then President Benigno S. Aquino III was not.
Rodrigo Roa Duterte talked dirty but he was seen as honest and down-to-earth. His campaign speeches were devoid of the doublespeak that the Manila elite had long spoken but never really meant. He promised no ivory tower rhetoric about fixing society. He said he'd make the fish of Manila Bay fat on the bodies of drug lords, pushers, and users. (READ: [OPINION] Chaos is Duterte's key message)
Fomenting fear and hate, now that is trademark authoritarianism. But who would call him out but the political elite that everybody was tired of listening to anyway? His words and antics proved easy to sell – to provincials who saw Imperial Manila become bloated and congested with progress but never shared such prosperity; and to the urban poor who continued to starve just beyond the walls and fences of the posh malls, condos, and subdivisions.
But little did they know that they would be the first to perish in a brutal realization of Duterte's promises. Today, twenty thousand have fallen under the gun of faceless vigilantes and masked police officers. The incidence of these extra-legal killings is so high that this has ceased to be news.
Tokhang is done under the cover of night in the shanties. The poor wake up to another in their community dead without having had a day in court to defend himself. Where must those left behind go? Stale news, the media no longer publish their stories.
Even as human rights organizations are demonized as allies of the drug menace, their lawyers continue to bring cases of the few survivors who still have the will to fight to the courts. But it is difficult to have hope in a justice system whose independence has been eroded by political influence. (READ: [OPINION] The wrecking-ball president)
One of the staunchest critics of the President and the drug war in the Supreme Court was removed. In a ruling reminiscent of the rubber stamp Court under Martial Law, the majority of its members surrendered the Court's independence. It disturbed rule of law when it decapitated itself in a manner that even the least serious law student would call incorrect.
True to its authoritarian tendencies, the administration continually sets the terrible vision of its piercing Eye of Sauron on new enemies. Stoking the ire of its multitudes of fanatics translates into support. After demonizing political adversaries in public speeches, the President has so far been able to jail or otherwise neutralize them.
The most vulnerable are the voiceless. The thousands of accused petty drug pushers and users, the Lumad whose schools are being burned or shuttered after being associated with communists, and the tambay being picked off the streets on charges based on pronouncements of the President owing credence to long repealed laws against vagrancy.
But even for all the fanaticism that Duterte had enabled, this writer has faith. Ruther Flores is a UP Law student and former student regent of the Bicol University long known in her region as a staunch supporter of the President. He had an important role in the latter's campaign in Bicol.
He made a post on Facebook that recently became viral. In it, he renounced his support for the President and pledged to fight for a better Philippines. "And this time, I pick myself up from the grave wrong I have committed and the gigantic problem I helped to create," he concluded.
This writer has faith that many more among those who had relied on the promises of Duterte as the panacea to the social ills created or perpetuated by Aquino will see the light.
We have but to recall the darkness under Martial Law to realize that no one leader will save us. A leader given absolute power is doomed to fail. The design of the democracy that sustains us is based on the idea that power, consolidated in any single person, will drown out the latter's humanity. (READ: War in paradise in the time of Duterte)
The Spaniards thought Filipinos were indolent. Indeed, their theory was that we relied on them, our colonizers, to solve our problems for us. If that were true, then they were right that we are an indolent people.
To be dependent on a savior now is not much different. We have no saviors in the stars.
Our salvation lies within ourselves. That means that our power, to be truly effective, must be scattered among ourselves. Nation building requires the participation of all. It entails chaos, endless squabbling, long-winded processes where nothing seems to get done, a complicated system – a democracy.
In his essay, Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines." That essay was called "Self-Reliance." – Rappler.com
Gino L.S. Paje is an employee of a government agency and is currently on his last year of law school. His interest lies in the fields of environmental law and history.