Saturday, December 12, 2015

Today's Revolution: Rodrigo Duterte?

“He who submits to tyranny, loves it.”− J.P. Rizal

If there is anything Rodrigo Duterte hated so much, it is the elementary notion of due process: a law which hears before it condemns. Under his watch as mayor, the City of Davao has no use for such notion. This is a perversion of what the rule of law is supposed to be. The next step for such perverted behavior is to capture the Golden Fleece− the presidency. Then comes, dictatorship.

A shame to be proud of?

Relished by many as the country’s “Punisher,” Duterte makes no qualms of his admiration for the Marcos dictatorship as the perfect model of authoritarian rule while at the same time bewailing everyone not to mess up with the Constitution. Pure admiration, however, is the easiest part; making it work is the real test. Duplicating the Marcos blueprint, of course, is fatal for as the saying goes, nothing grows under the Banyan tree. If Duterte were to plot the direction of dictatorship in this country, let me remind him that the framers of the 1987 Constitution, wary of another emerging dictator coming in our midst, fashioned the present martial law powers with intricate safeguards that could surely stop him dead on his tracks. This I’m most confident about.

But for all the constitutional antidotes against a repetition of the Marcos regime, the quirks of history convinced me that indeed it would be very difficult to stop a much determined tyrant from imposing his will. And this what makes Rodrigo Duterte’s bid for the presidency so dangerous.

I don’t know if you feel it, but I feel it and the mention of Rodrigo Duterte’s name alone, even in subterranean whispers, give me shivers down my spine. Duterte, who has been mayor since 1988, has flaunted more than 1000 victims of apparent death squad executions. And that is not all. In his recent interview with Rappler, Duterte threatened criminal suspects anew: “Kapag naging presidente ako, magtago na kayo. Yang 1,000 it will reach 50,000. I would kill all of you who make the lives of Filipinos miserable." If he were to make good of his promises of law and order and the speedy eradication of corruption from top to bottom, it is not hard to imagine that we would soon be having a ‘revolutionary government’ under a Duterte presidency. Seriously, nothing is “carved on tablets of imperishable stone, “not even the supreme law of the land.

I have not read any of his statements on how he would go about imposing dictatorial rule with the 1987 Constitution firmly in place. Duterte is a lawyer by profession, but certainly not of Mr. Marcos’ caliber. All he has at the moment is the Marcosian daring. My surmise is that he would call for a constitutional revision to carry out his planned dictatorship under a revolutionary scheme, then a shift maybe to federalism when the dust settles.

Duterte the revolutionary, hah!

Change. The nation is whirling with change and the first shoot-to-kill victim would be the fundamental law, the 1987 Constitution we hold dear. Being a ruthless violator of the Bill of Rights, Duterte would not allow himself to be imprisoned by any constitution like Mr. Marcos’ martial law in 1972. For a time, Marcos too toyed with the idea of a revolutionary government but had to scrapped it altogether as he didn’t want to look like he violated the Constitution.

In his book “Leaders: From Marcos to Arroyo,” prolific writer and political firebrand Bono Adaza pointed out that this was Ferdinand Marcos’ “grand and tragic mistake.” Instead of a revolutionary government, Marcos, for all his creativity and brilliance, chose in the end to go along traditional channels to institute his daring reforms. “Martial law is a prisoner of the Constitution,” wrote Adaza in one of the chapters of his magnificent book. “You must always act within the provisions of the Constitution. What Marcos should have done was to declare a revolutionary government because under it, the government is the law and the leader is the law giver.” (Adaza 2009) Marcos, however, was a meticulous person; he wanted to be remembered as one who respected the Constitution thus he had to find a way to pull off his biggest political extravaganza. But for a self-confessed ‘berdugo’ like Rodrigo Duterte, his cards lay openly on the table. Imposing a dictatorial regime is no secret, in fact, it could very well be the centerpiece of his program of government. Scary? Yes, because he would replicate the Davao experiment and apply it on national scale. How’s that for a president or worse, for a law giver? Clearly, it is easier to run a revolution than a constitutional government.

For those who are not comfortable with Duterte’s ways of leadership, the ruthless mayor of Davao has consistently issued a disclaimer during his interviews: "I don't want to be president. I don't want to kill people. So don't elect me as president."

The New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) has called on the Philippine government to investigate Duterte for his possible role in extrajudicial killings in Davao City over the past decades. But nothing has come out of it. One really wonders as one harks back to the pages of the Bill of Rights, especially the constitutional presumption of innocence. For as one looks at the present political landscape, the feeling is almost one of utter despair. The people are no longer willing to defend, much less assert, their liberties protected by the Constitution. More than Rodrigo Duterte, I’m much more afraid of those who will cast their lot on him; desperate citizens who would be willing to march with him to the ends of the earth in search of the promise land.

If only our sense of patriotism awakes, then something can be done to head off the whirlwind. Eternal vigilance, let us not forget, is the price of freedom! Still and all, I wish him luck.