Dear Digong: Please don’t fail your people

Shakira Sison

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Dear Digong: Please don’t fail your people
'I hope to God for the sake of our country that all of the things you've promised are lies'

Dear Mayor Duterte,

When you first gained popularity, I made an effort to understand your appeal. I interviewed lawyers, business owners, writers and employees on why you were their choice.

I appreciated your do-or-die stance, your iron fist, and your seemingly incorrigible attitude that attracted so many of our citizens to join your side. I understood the level of desperation and hopelessness that could lead a nation to find salvation in your merciless eyes.

Your associations always worried me, as well as your high regard for the source of death and suffering in our country’s recent past. Your language offended me, because image or not, joke or not, no woman deserves to be spoken of in the manner you consistently do. I became concerned that your popularity would cause more men to regard women as poorly as you do. 

‘Kriminal lang ang pinapatay’

I always questioned how you kept your city’s apparent peace and order. I worried for my friends when they didn’t want to recognize the cost of keeping your city’s crime rate low. “Kriminal lang talaga ang pinapatay niya,” (He only kills criminals) they all said. They trust you so much to know by hearsay whether a petty thief should be executed or not, never mind that theft isn’t even a capital crime.

You admitted it yourself so I know it’s not a joke when you say you will dump 100,000 bodies in Manila BayYou said you would pardon police officers for rights abuses. You said you would pardon yourself for multiple murder. 

I worry when people around me believe that the “criminals” and “addicts” you promise to eliminate can’t possibly be anyone they know. It bothers me more that just because they don’t know these folks, that it would be okay to snuff them from society, no matter what their stories are or even if they are as young as 12 years old. It makes me nervous how you would possibly discern who is guilty or innocent on a national level without delegating this judgment to those who may not be as discriminating, conscientious, or as fair as you claim you are.

The powerful are spared

None of the people you’ve killed are rich or powerful. You have not condemned the Ampatuans, even if they massacred journalists and civilians, women and children. You do not vow to kill the convicted plunderers of our nation. In fact, you even promised to set them free, protect their rights to fair trial and release them on bail. You have assured these corrupt leaders the due process you couldn’t offer to your own constituents.

Now that you’ve made international news and have made the United States’ most ridiculous candidate appear more sensible than you, you have the ear of the world.

Your people adore you. 

Even if you admitted your seriousness in wanting to have first dibs in raping a dead Australian missionary. Even if you called your daughter a drama queen when she said she was also raped.

Even when you told women’s groups to go to hell, or promised to cut international ties without regard for its impact on our economy or security.

Even when you’re now facing a probe for hiding billions of pesos. Even if you’re now asking to be considered innocent until proven guilty, a chance that suspected Davaoeño offenders never got under your rule.

Your supporters are becoming more brazen and sophisticated too, learning such phrases as “black propaganda,” and their favorite “Bias!” without understanding that these terms also apply when you fail to listen to insight other than your own. They scour the internet for every mention of you. They threaten those who don’t support you with rape or murder, following your unique brand of terror and violence.

They still worship you like a God, for you have no flaws and are the all-knowing, all-powerful savior they have been waiting for all their lives. They collect your snot and sweat as if you were a resurrected Jesus. You smirk and give in to their obsession, throwing smelly bimpos back at the elated crowd. They believe your stink will save their lives.

Ikaw na, as they would say. Your wish is their command. In the face of the most horrible and most offensive statements spewing from your mouth, to your supporters you can do no wrong. “Don’t take it literally,” they will say, even when you say you definitely mean it (until the next day when you say you don’t). They love you because you say what you want, whenever you want, without regard for the repercussions of your statements. You are the voice they will never have – regardless of who wins the election.

Barring a sudden change of heart, your ardent supporters might very well vote you into power. Good for you! While I would accept the will of the electorate and resign myself to our fate, the idea of your leadership terrifies me.

I don’t have much to lose when you begin your reign. Aside from shame for my country for electing an international embarrassment and my worry for my remaining loved ones in the Philippines, your impending presidency will not affect me as much as those whose lives are truly at stake. I am terrified by the human cost of your rise to power because it’s those members of society who worship you who will be the first to be rounded up and killed if you fulfill your promises. 

Lack of pretense

What I like about you is your lack of pretense. I admire your fearlessness when declaring things that are universally wrong. You promised to free Gloria Macapagal-Aroyo and Bong Revilla. You want to give the country’s most cruel dictator a hero’s burial. You promised a dictatorship. You promised to close Congress. You promised that you would not be impeached until the job is done. 

Most of all, you promised to kill Filipinos. You vowed to have a leadership so bloody that even “God will weep” when you win.

My only hope is that you don’t keep any of these promises you’ve explicitly stated again and again to the world. I pray that you lie when you make promises, and that only the beneficial social programs you had in your home city would be implemented nationwide. I pray that all the things you don’t brag about are the ones that are true, and the ones you do talk about are all lies.

I hope you’re a liar

I want you to be a liar. I want you to not keep your promises. Because I want to give those who worship you a fair chance with the prosperity they expect your regime to bring. Your supporters are not expecting to be taken from their homes the way you’ve rounded up the urban poor of Davao and executed them. They are not expecting to be lined up and shot for being afflicted with drug addiction, or for stealing so their families will not starve. 

Your worshipers are not expecting you to turn on them while you protect the big time criminals and drug lords, this time on a national scale when you occupy the highest post in the land. 

I want your devoted flock to keep loving you, even if it means my fears will be proven wrong. Even if your success confirms my paranoia, I’d rather be wrong about you because it means the ones who love you will not die. 

I want to be wrong about you, Dear Leader, because it would be horrible for your cult if your track record, promises, and bloody reign proved to be right.

Even if I disagree with your supporters, even if I don’t believe what you’ve made them believe, they are all still Filipinos. Some of them are my relatives. Some are my friends and my family’s employees. Most of them are strangers I’ll never encounter in my life.

But as Filipinos, whether rich, poor, educated or not, whether their existence affects me or not, whether they have committed offenses or have been victims of crimes, each and every person deserves so much more than to be uncertain about his or her life. It’s difficult to envision anything more when the loss of life and the violation of basic human rights are what you are promising with your presidency.

I hope to God for the sake of our country that all of the things you’ve promised are lies.


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