MANY of us would easily attest, some with total objectivity, to the difference that floated like a split-screen bar between the Noynoy Aquino government’s (or regime’s) social liberal image as projected by her speeches and her neoliberal image as remembered by the citizenry’s general experience with her governance. Many, I say, although the Aquino government will vehemently deny there is such a difference. And though we ought not to forget that crucial difference for our future history-writing and efforts at remembering, let us hasten now to ponder the immediate present and near future with this impending new government of Rodrigo Duterte, especially since we can’t keep on harping on the mistakes of the past (the way Aquino was wont to do for the gods of blame).
So, to our topic.
Recently, we had had a tremendous election campaign replete with all sorts of bias flying from all sides (and from these sides’ cultish fans, most strenuously). Needless to say, split-screen bars of comparison between reality and hype were afloat in the air for our easy grabs during that season, but we all know that during these seasons we understandably can’t (or won’t) use such checks, as we often are interested, generally speaking, only in avoiding what would otherwise allow us to draw the necessary lines between our candidates’ image of their truth and their impending real truth (beyond image) after their win, in case they won.
Now, why is this split-screen bar so important? Well, this bar is important because this bar is actually you. And if you believe yourself to be just as important as, or more important than, the images to your left and right, then you will take care of this bar and not throw it away. True, there is comfort in the lie of merging the images to your left and right, but for how long really can you live with this lie before you realize already that you can’t have Marie Antoinette’s absent cake and eat it too?
So, to the present.
Well, sure, our respective usual confirmation bias that accompany our respective cult hero admiration for the cult heroes in our representative democracy’s star system will never disappear, post-election. The Duterte-ites will continue to guard their confirmation bias' data attesting to their supposed correctness, many to the end, with only a few holding on to these for a year or more, just as the Roxasians will stick to their glue and will almost eternally hope to be able to say their waiting we-told-you-so’s.
But, beyond Facebook shallowness, what ought we to do, really, post-election? Or should I ask, beyond being mere followers of the faces and feces of the stars in representative democracy’s star system, how should we carry ourselves now? How do others in the planet carry on? How do they behave in Switzerland, for instance, post-election time? For, true, even Switzerland with the quasi-direct democracy system votes to put people in representative posts, its form of democracy being precisely that, quasi, meaning half representative and half direct. But, interestingly, the Swiss place a higher premium on their participation in governance as a people, as against us who as a republican nation place a high premium solely on the performance of our leaders qua saviors. True, the Swiss system and culture is different, as the Swiss people are able to pass initiatives (major laws) by themselves at least three times a year, while we, or at least the few vigilant among us, can only think of protesting in the streets or of filing cases in Court every time we find our leaders misusing the benevolent gift we generously gave them in the preceding election/s, our blinded Trust.
But we digress too far.
Well, we can actually further digress here and talk about Rodrigo Duterte’s dangled parliamentary-system candy stick, which we can allow to touch us in the oncoming years, especially since it talks about a system not completely reliant on big business and national oligarchs, or at least not on big national campaign budgets for individual candidates. Or since it’s a system that makes it possible to turn a mere Neri Colmenares into a Prime Minister of our Republic while perhaps also rendering it impossible for a son of Bongbong Marcos to be the President of the Philippines in 2034. Or since it's a system that can pass urgent laws urgently within a day or a week instead of within the length of a senator's unpredictable six-year term.
But, again, we digress. For, first, I think we ought to define. So let’s define Rodrigo Duterte.
WE must define Rodrigo Duterte because we chose him to be our next savior. I say savior, remembering that the reason why we chose a Joseph Estrada “para sa mahirap” was because we woke up to find a neoliberal Fidel Ramos taking too much care of business. But, soon, we realized that Estrada’s pseudo-leftism was more “para sa mga big Chinoys”, so we allowed a Nora Aunor-ish Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to be our next queen. That also disappointed us, with realizations brought our way by the words of Jun Lozada, among many others. We rode with the protests of Corazon Aquino et al and, consequently, the promise of her son who proudly carried the name of the legendary father after the death of the mother, thanks to nudges from a snickering show business sister who would later become a Board member of Hacienda Luisita. And here we are, as disappointed as ever. And today we lean on the name of what many believe to be a lousy speaker but a great deliverer, the tough king of Davao, Rodrigo Duterte, who promises to exile the oppressors of laglag-bala scam victims and to threaten back the mining interests of Lumad-hating companies associated with Mar Roxas. Are we in for another disappointment?
Well, of course we are.
We are because, even before we digress to proposals culled from our desires, blind proposals and desires with which we measure our expectations of our man at the helm, we always fail at the git-go (and afterwards) to define the reality of the man we installed on the throne at the Palace after the mythmaking season of election campaigning. We fail, even as many are armed with ready split-screen wands of knowledge that they can easily use this early in the six-year-term, not only for delineating the difference between the myth around the man and the reality of the man but more importantly the difference between the reality of the man and our expectations.
So, to define. Who, first of all, beyond mere suspicion or image-making myths, is Rodrigo Duterte?
Is he truly, as the Left submits, just another neoliberal pretending to be sympathetic to the poor? True, it’s a puzzlement how he was able to fund that billions-of-pesos-worth campaign that he just embarked on; surely big business (or a powerful external institution) funded his efforts? Or a large crowdfunding firm? But, given that, should we automatically assume that he would return the favor as a neoliberal and nothing else beyond? After all, many European socialist leaders were also funded by big business, as have Democrats in the United States been, in order to forge their way towards the establishment of some form of social liberal or social democratic governments. Let’s put aside that radical leftist assumption that even the leftmost form of liberalism is, in the end, ultimately neoliberal, just as we may put aside for this essay’s focus the assumption that any leftism beyond the most leftist liberalism is already unsound fascist communism that even Deng Xiaoping abhorred.
So, a neoliberal Duterte? Is it really what’s looming? Well, in the sense of being for more privatization for a quick and (to be generous) efficient delivery of solutions, say, to mass transportation problems, I’d say it’s possible. For instance, it’s possible he would emulate Melbourne by turning EdlSA into a highway of tram rails operated by one private corporation. I won’t dismiss the possibility of that. But neoliberal in the sense of being for fiscal austerity, I doubt that anyone wants to do that in the Philippines, considering that much of the corruption in this country were culled precisely from social spending or what passed for social spending that ended up in the company of socialites. Corollarily, neoliberal in the sense of being for government spending reductions, I also doubt, considering that Filipino politicians understand the truth that the policy position the big banks are happiest with are social liberal policy positions that favor a fiscal policy. Why else would Norway’s Sveriges Riksbank award Paul Krugman a Nobel Prize in Economic Science? But how about being neoliberal in the sense of being for deregulation? Well, if historical memory serves us right, deregulation is usually only what ruling political parties hereabouts award to their friends, while it’s regulation, or fierce regulation, that they use against the friends of their enemies (that behavior makes all past Philippine governments, and possibly this one too, only quasi-neoliberal, at least in that sense).
But what about the fear that Duterte is a fascist? Fascist how? There’s the fear that his reputation will lead him to fulfill a national (or federal) dream consisting of death squads scattered all over the archipelago. And it is here that I guess we can go back to our (and vice-presidential candidate Antonio Trillanes’) early suspicion that Duterte’s campaign was funded by special interests, which funding, by the way, turned out to have been facilitated by an Ayala-family bank (the reason perhaps why Trillanes was able to get wind of it the day after Duterte’s speech with the Makati Business Club happened, which speech by the way didn’t sit well with the club’s members, the Ayalas included). So, we were saying? Ah, yes. Would you, a billionaire of an institution, fund a candidate who could put your businesses at risk by being suddenly placed in a national police state that would likewise offend the various warlord oligarchs as well as the communist rebels, not to mention the new rebels that could be manufactured as a consequence by such an oppressive state? A police state in the Lee Kuan Yew sense, maybe (you know, for the benefit of a crony capitalism you cannot refuse), but definitely not in the Pinochet sense. If it were to be the latter and I was one of the campaign investors who invested heavily in Duterte, I’d make sure my vetted rooster doesn’t stay too long in his seat. That’s the toughest talk you will never hear me say on TV.
And what about Duterte as a communist, running by that favorite crayon the Roxasians and the entire Daang Matuwid mythology used to color his person with during the campaign? Well, even assuming that Duterte got funding directly from China or from China indirectly through the Communist Party of the Philippines, well, . . . apart from the fact that it was coursed through an Ayala bank, we should not allow ourselves to be eaten by the virus of confirmation bias and close our eyes to the important question of why Duterte was in conference with retired Armed Forces of the Philippines officers, most of whom have continuing alliances with American counterparts, at that very moment that he was talking to Jose Maria Sison via Skype. Surely many communists would be offended by this complete picture? Not Sison, though, it seems, which by itself should already be a question more on whether it's Sison who has become less of a communist now, although that would be simplifying communism too much, given communism's many variants.
But, really, frankly, to close, . . . I can only conjecture on how neoliberal, and/or how social liberal, and/or how social democrat, and/or how socialist, and/or how communist, and/or how Peronist-esque, Rodrigo Duterte’s government is going to be. And/or how eclectic it's going to be, for better or worse. For to speculate too much in the manner of conspiracy theorists about the danger that Duterte might be to this country is to be the direct parallel of that one speculating too much in stocks in favor of Dutertenomics, especially since we know very well what Duterte said about the stock exchange, as being of no consequence in his book. Duterte may not be a presumptive President anymore, but we certainly still are in that short period where we can still only assume what his government will be.
Well, certainly we can assume what his government will turn out to be, that’s within our rights, and it's good for the exercise of our brains. But harping too much on how our leaders will serve us bares another truth beyond the reach of split screen bars. It’s a truth not solely about why our leaders have been behaving the way they did in the past but primarily about us. It says that the premium we place on our leaders’ prescriptions shows the quite naked truth about us as a people vanquished by the myth of pure representative democracy (it's not tagged by some as a fake democracy for nothing). It tells of a people who forever debate on their leaders instead of making time to debate on whether it is high time for them to stamp their demand for total participation towards a real democracy. It’s a naked truth I'll call, which, however, I'm sure many Filipinos will vehemently ignore.
But in spite of that, I'll still ask, putting up a new split-screen bar. Is it all we ought to do, keep watch on our leaders for them to deliver the goods? Or can we also re-invent the historical wheel of participatory and direct democracy on another panel of our current panoramic vision of a bright future, if only to gain an alternative panel wherein we can perhaps better pin our hopes? Sure, if the presumptive Duterte-Robredo government can facilitate our attainment of that panel, so much the better, and we the Filipino people should remember the two as the true heroes of the people for that. But in the meantime, let's not be content with the proposal that what we ought to do is be vigilant merely. For it's not all that we can do. [S /-I]