While President-elect Duterte and his team are busy with forging a peace agreement with the communist party of the Philippines and ending a decades-long insurgency that has claimed thousands of Filipino lives, the team of in coming Vice President Leni Robredo and their allies in the media are preoccupied with making a fuss over the separate inauguration ceremonies for the two newly elected officials.
In trying to make a mountain out of this molehill – or more appropriately a shit pile – Robredo and her cohorts are showing just how petty and small-minded they are in the face of the greater socio-economic challenges facing the nation. It is no wonder then that her running mate was soundly trounced, and she herself barely scraping enough votes from vote-buying to get a win in the recently held elections.
And while the media wants to paint the decision of Duterte in political colors, the fact of the matter is really much more mundane – there just aren’t enough seats in Malacanang to hold all the guests if both the President and Vice President are inaugurated at the same time.
This information was already conveyed to Mindavote a few days before the formal announcement of the inaugural arrangements. According to our source the President-elect stuck to his original pronouncement of wanting to hold the event in Malacanang. This of course posed several logistical problems, not the least of which was the limited – only 500 seats – capacity of the venue. This meant that after all the mandatory invitations have been sent out – to the diplomatic core, the senate president and speaker of the house, cabinet secretaries, etc – there were only a little more than 100 invitations left for the President and Vice President, and their families and personal guests.
This is why it was decided to hold the event separately, to allow each of them to celebrate it in a way that was both significant and meaningful to them. But of course, this kind of simple and sincere reasoning does not fit the narrative that the media wants to portray – that of a divisive and dictatorial President Duterte.
Then again, this isn’t like the old days when all the news and information had to pass, and was controlled by the traditional media. People can now get the truth from other sources and make their own informed opinion.
That was how Abraham Lincoln was called by The New York Herald in one of their articles that lampooned him. They couldn’t believe the Republicans favoured Lincoln over candidates who looked and sounded more like a respectable statesman, such as Seward and Chase. On May 19, 1860, a writer called Lincoln a “third-rate Western lawyer..who cannot speak good grammar.” On May 20, another writer limned Lincoln as someone who represented “all that is brutal and bloody in Seward’s political programme.”
The Atlas and Argus was equally disgusted by Lincoln. On May 21, 1860, they described him as a “slang-whanging stump speaker, of a class with which every party teems, and of which all parties are ashamed.” On the same day, the Boston Post predicted that Lincoln would only serve as “the tool of the fanatical host he will lead on.”
On May 24, The Philadelphia Evening Journal asked why should Lincoln become President? His language was “coarse,” they said. His style, “illiterate.” And Lincoln’s “vulgar and vituperative” character couldn’t hold a candle to the refine and eminent personality of his opponent.
When Lincoln became president, a newspaper in Illinois said this about him: “His weak, wishy-washy, namby-pamby efforts, imbecile in matter, disgusting in manner, have made us the laughing stock of the whole world. The European powers will despise us because we have no better material out of which to make a President.”
In Unpopular Mr Lincoln, Larry Tagg shared what a “Carolinian correspondent” told his friend about Lincoln:
“Did you think the people of the South, the Lords Proprietors of the Land, would let this low fellow rule for them? No. His vulgar facetiousness may suit the race of clock makers and wooden nutmeg venders — even Wall Street brokers may accept him, since they do not protest — but never will he receive the homage of southern gentlemen..[because they would never submit to rule by a president who] exhibits himself at railway depots, bandies jokes with the populace, kisses bold women from promiscuous crowds.”
In their 2012 Civil War issue, the Atlantic republished the 1904 article of Henry Villard, the journalist who covered the Lincoln-Douglas debates.
Lincoln, Villard said, was fond of “low talk” and liked telling “coarse or even outright nasty” stories and dirty jokes. “The coarser the joke, the lower the anecdote, and the more risky the story, the more he enjoyed them,” Villard explained.
Villard found Lincoln revolting. “Again and again,” he said, “I felt disgust and humiliation that such a person should have been called upon to direct the destinies of a great nation in the direst period of its history… I could not have persuaded myself that the man might possibly possess true greatness of mind and nobility of heart..”
As he got to know more the man, Villard saw something more in Lincoln: “…in spite of his frequent outbreaks of low humor, his was really a very sober and serious nature, and even inclined to gloominess to such an extent that all his biographers have attributed a strongly melancholic disposition to him.”
And as the presidency of Lincoln unfolded, Villard witnessed how the vulgar village politician “proved [himself] to be one of the great leaders of mankind in adversity, in whom low leanings only set off more strikingly his better qualities.”
In Lincoln: The Biography of a Writer, Fred Kaplan offered this reflection regarding Lincoln’s nasty and dirty jokes:
“More genteel than Lincoln, [Henry Whitney, friend and colleague of Lincoln,] struggled to explain the president’s ‘filth,’ and to be sparing with his examples. ‘The great majority of [his] stories were very nasty indeed. I remember many of them but they do us no good.’ Apparently they did Lincoln good. They helped him politically and professionally. And rather than displacing his “ideality,” they expressed an element of his personality and experience inseparable from his moral idealism. Like Mark Twain, he had a genius for pithy narrative, and a sense that his stories and obscenities expressed something crucial about the underlying flaws in the universe and the inexplicable darkness of the human situation. And often the darkness found its best expression in humor.”
Will Duterte become a Lincoln or a Qaddafi? Only time will tell.
Filipino historian Vicente Rafael recently published a commentary in Inquirer entitled “Duterte’s Hobbesian World” (http://bit.ly/1PoLTfe). In that article, Rafael points out the seeming non-existence of the idea of “universal human rights…in the local-regional world of Duterte.” And in Duterte’s world, these principles, Rafael argues, are “abstract impositions by the West that infringe on the sovereignty of nations.”
It’s a thoughtful piece that contextualised Duterte’s vision of justice. Duterte, Rafael said, was shaped by a “Hobbesian world,” i.e. the Davao of the 1990s. A world of various violent groups and corrupt journalists. A world where “human rights are translated into highly particularized notions of honour and revenge where my freedom depends on my right to take yours away.” The last paragraph ends with these stirring words:
“But what about those who do not share the same notion of honour and the desire for revenge? They are left vulnerable and unsafe. Human rights, as contradictory and hegemonic as they are, remain our best hope for protecting each other from this parochial world of revenge and the spiralling fear and violence they bring forth. Doing so requires that we claim those rights and insist on their protection, not by a strongman or a tatay, but by the laws that we ourselves agree to abide by, however imperfectly and unevenly their enforcement might be. Otherwise, it’s back to Hobbes. Or forward to Stalin.”
I’d like to begin my critique by questioning Rafael’s use of “Hobbesian World.” What does he mean by that? Thomas Hobbes is the author of The Leviathan, one of the canonical texts in Political Theory. In the Leviathan, Hobbes envisioned two kinds of states: the state of nature and the state of civil order.
The state of nature is an anarchic world, no higher authority exists to impose and maintain order. Since there’s no order, no law is possible. Everyone is equally free to do what they want to do. It’s a world full of rights but no obligations. The latter is absent because there’s no authority that would “constrain those that would otherwise violate their faith.” The state of nature is not the mere absence of the rule of law but the absence of an enforcer of the law: the hand that maintains order. As a way out of this anarchic world, Hobbes recommended that individuals submit themselves into a central authority that would regulate their rights and enforce their obligations. Thus, the Hobbesian solution to the state of nature is the presence of a strong central authority that can “keep everyone in awe.”
Rafael cautions us about devolving into a Hobbesian World. However, it’s not clear which world is that: The state of nature or the state of civil order?
By projecting himself as a strong authority, Duterte is presenting himself as the Hobbesian solution to the state of nature. Duterte wants to bring back order, so that the rule of law can work its magic.
But Rafael doesn’t see the significance of what Duterte is trying to do. Rafael’s article is about a world of rights. He said that we will escape the state of nature, of war of all against all, if we “insist on their protection, not by a strongman or a tatay, but by the laws that we ourselves agree to abide by, however imperfectly and unevenly their enforcement might be.” The question is WHO will enforce those laws?
The rule of law is not self-enforcing. The rule of law only becomes effective if it’s obeyed. Obedience doesn’t come cheap: you obey the law either because you believe in it or out of fear of punishment. However, that fear only works if the law is strongly enforced and the punishment is harsh. Without strong enforcement, following the law, as Duterte would say, becomes optional. You cannot do away with a strongman, if by strong man you mean someone who has a strong political will to enforce the law. Even the darling of political science, i.e. institutions, needs leaders with strong political will in order to be effective. Institutions are only as strong as the people helming them.
Even if we live under the regime of human rights, strong political will is necessary because our rights aren’t just contradictory, as Rafael acknowledged, they are also “not compossible, that is, the implementation of one human right can require the violation of another, or the protection of a human right of one person may require the violation of the same human right of another” (Michael Freeman, Human Rights). Institutions need leaders with strong political will in order to enforce laws that would protect the rights of some people at the expense of others. That is an inescapable political reality.
The problem for me is not the contradiction of rights nor that they are hegemonic, as Rafael called it. Rights require order and every order is hegemonic, as Mouffe said. The problem for me is characterising “human rights” as our “best hope” to anything. In Rafael’s article, it is “our best hope for protecting each other from this parochial world of revenge and the spiralling fear and violence they bring forth.”
First of all, the doctrine of human rights cannot protect you in the face of an attack from someone for whatever reason. Period. That is the point Duterte wanted to convey: How can the Constitution or the notion of Universal Human Rights protect a journalist from the moment that s/he is being killed? The constitution and the lofty notion of humans rights only work after the fact OR they might be effective if the constitution and human rights doctrine arouse enough fear that could deter your attacker from committing violence against you.
When I was still living in the Philippines I was almost killed. One night, while I was on my way home from a speaking engagement, a gang of teenagers who were hanging outside a 7-11 convenient store saw me and started debating among themselves whether I was a girl or a boy. One of them settled it and shouted, “Putang-ina walang suso! Bakla yan! (Fuck! No breasts! That’s a fag!)” Then they started running towards me, shouting “Bakla! Takbo! (Run faggot!)” Terrified, I ran as fast as I could. I screamed for help but there was not much people in the road, only cars and jeepneys speeding by. Luckily, I saw an empty cab. I immediately hailed it. I locked all the doors and asked the driver to drive fast. Then I saw that the teenager closest to me was carrying a steel pipe. He banged the trunk of the cab with it. The driver was furious and tried to stop to confront the guy. But I pleaded for him to just go and hurry up. Only fate knows what would have happened to me if I had been too slow or if there had been no empty cabs that happened to be there.
How could the UN Human Rights Commission or the Philippine Commission on Human Rights protect me at that moment when I needed my right to life be protected? These institutions would come after the fact, sometime after the sad fact. But, as how we say it in Tagalog: Aanhin pa ang damo kung patay na ang kabayo? What exactly do I need during that time? It’s not the absence of human rights that was on my mind at that time but the absence of police officers with strong political will that could face my attacker. Yet the police cannot be everywhere. I also have a duty to protect myself from these attacks and to avoid places where these attacks are likely to happen. I cannot debate with my killer and stop him with an eloquent speech about human rights. If someone would kill me, they would kill me.
This is the reason why I understood what Duterte meant. I’ve been in a lot of situation where my life was in peril. I can preach that killing is wrong, but people will still be killed; I will still be killed. If preaching could stop violence, we would have been living in paradise already with all the preaching against violence that has been going on since time immemorial.
It is not human rights that is our best hope “for protecting each other from this parochial world of revenge and the spiralling fear and violence they bring forth,” as Rafael put it. Our best hope is the cultivation of self-restraint.
We are at the receiving end of revenge because we did something worth avenging about. And some people, a hell lot of them, find their dignity, yes the wellspring of human rights, worth killing for.
The Maranaos in Mindanao have this concept called “maratabát.” As Robert Day McAmis explained in Malay Muslims: The History and Challenge of Resurgent Islam in Southeast Asia, maratabat guides the “life and conduct of the Maranao in his daily life. A Maranao will go to great lengths to build a ‘good’ maratabat. Having a bad community image is considered ‘having dirt on his face,’ and this will provoke a Maranao to go to any extreme to remove any ‘stain’ from his maratabat.” It’s a very compelling sense of dignity; when it is ruined by somebody else, it “demands retribution that often takes the form of violent retaliation” (Thomas McKenna, Muslim Rulers and Rebels: Everyday Politics and Armed Separatism in the Southern Philippines).
If you mess with their dignity, destroy their reputation, you effectively ruin their lives. Human rights will never ever protect you from someone avenging their dignity that you destroyed. Your best hope from being at the receiving end of a violent retaliation is to stop ruining people’s dignity. It’s not more rights that can help you from someone’s revenge but the maturity to restrain yourself from destroying their dignity. Your best hope is not some lofty principle but yourself. Yes, your killer would be sent to jail, but what’s its use to you? You are already dead.
BETWEEN HOBBES AND STALIN
Certainly, political will can be excessive and destructive. But this risk doesn’t mean we should strive for a “rule of law” doing its magic without strong authority enforcing its content. Rafael identified the polar ends of excessive political will: Hobbes and Stalin. As he used it, Hobbes refer to the state of nature while Stalin to the state of excessive State authority.
But why these two non-Asian choices? Why not Lee Kuan Yew? If one would carefully study Duterte’s rhetoric, one could hear Lee: the cruel stance against drug lords, the frank attitude towards the press, the boldness against international institutions, including the UN, and human rights organisations. It’s not a surprise: Duterte has repeatedly mentioned Lee as one of the statesmen he considers as his mentor.
It’s interesting to note that the Philippines has consistently ranked higher than Singapore in the Press Freedom Index of Reporter’s Without Borders. In 2016 the Philippines’ rank is 138, while Singapore’s rank is 154. Unlike the Philippines, Singapore isn’t a signatory to the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights or even the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Singapore doesn’t even have its own Commission on Human Rights. Singapore has repeatedly received a bad press, criticised by international human rights organisations, portrayed as a repressive regime. But which country has a better quality of life? However, it’s not because of the absence of a strong human rights culture that made Singapore as what it is now but the presence of leaders who have the political will to do what’s needed to be done in order to create a safe, prosperous, and disciplined society, which could serve as a fertile ground for the cultivation and flourishing of one’s self worth.
Duterte, who won by more than six million votes over his nearest rival (with allegations that it was actually much higher if not for the vote-shaving done by the administration party), was elected to implement a wide variety of changes starting with a crackdown on criminality and corruption in government. In her article, Ms. De Guzman echoes the feeling of many observers that there are those who are afraid of Duterte, seeing in him an end to their lording over the Philippines.
“There is a very strong crusade to stop president elect Rody Duterte from becoming the President of the Republic. Many sectors of society are out there for the kill. They continue to lambast him and threaten him for one reason or another. If you carefully study the background of these groups or individuals, you will clearly see a connection to the so-called “yellow mafia.”
Why is there a conspiracy to destabilize the new government? In the past, new presidents are welcomed. I have not heard nor read of a president elect being excoriated this way. We usually wait and see and give that leader a chance to prove himself or herself for the first 100 days. What is strangely happening now?
This is also the first time we see a president elect working right after the pronouncement of his winning the election. He started telling the public what he wants to happen as if making those in government hear his message in a subtle way. This is the first time I see police manning the streets, drug busters out for the kill, government working heeding the calls of the president elect unaffected by the presence of the former who still maintains his seat of power until June 30.
Amidst his roughness and nonchalant ways, president elect Duterte is giving us a head start of his presidency. He is a no nonsense guy. He is tough and rough and whether conservative citizens disdain him, the majority is looking forward to the “change” he will bring in.
If you watch the news on major networks, you will sense a strong campaign against Duterte. If you read the news, you will observe several newspaper journalists and social network sites taking a turn against him. Many in media have joined the bandwagon especially after Duterte called their bluff on boycotting him: Go ahead, boycott me. I’m urging you. Make this trip your last to Davao City. I do not care if no one is covering me. By the way, many politicians (mayors, congressmen and senators) have jumped off ship and are now swimming to Davao. Some are even riding a “yellow” submarine. Susmariosep!
Many of the top corporations and networks in this country are run or have been affiliated with the ‘yellow race.’ Believe it or not, they are anxious of what might be. This is precisely why they are all out there to destroy the “terminator.” Yes, Duterte if clear with his decrees will swipe all of them to do what is right thus, leaving a small chance for any hunky punky which many are used to in running conglomerates. Enough is enough and come July 1 all hell will break lose as we watch Duterte walk his talk.”
There are a lot of speculations swirling around the real reasons why the Liberal Party was not able to meet the deadline for the filing of its Statement of Contributions and Expenditures (SOCE) during the last elections. This is fueled by the observations of many who find it incomprehensible that a major party like the LP would be unable to comply with this very basic requirement the country’s election laws.
While the party is trying to quell these rumors by pointing to the voluminous receipts and documents it has to file, there are many who refuse to accept this as a valid reason. Particularly since other parties and candidates were able to comply with the requirements.
One particularly interesting scenario has to do with the deliberate sabotage of the Liberal Party leadership of Leni Robredo because of in-fighting among their ranks. It can be recalled that there was even a news report early in the campaign about an alleged LP plan to for Robredo for Chiz Escudero (http://news.abs-cbn.com/halalan2016/nation/02/25/16/lp-to-drop-robredo-palace-downplays-rumors). According to sources within the LP, those running Robredo’s campaign were never really part of the political circle of Mar Roxas.
“It is common knowledge that Robredo’s team was made up of the people behind the NoyBi campaign of 2010, disgruntled former Roxas staffers, Aquino relatives, and other groups that supported PNoy but who are not for Mar.” Among the identified personalities who helped Robredo were Maria Montelibano, Paul Aquino and son Sen. Bam Aquino, and political analyst Malou Tiquia, among others.
This divide within the administration tandem got bigger during the campaign, highlighted by the fact that both Robredo and Roxas were known to make separate deals for their individual candidacies with local government officials. In one particularly glaring example, Robredo accepted the endorsement of Bukidnon kingpin Jose Zubiri, despite the fact that he was also endorsing Davao Mayor Rody Duterte.
This and other similar backdoor channeling did not sit well with Roxas’ team, which now seeks to exact revenge by making Robredo squirm.
But what the bright boys of LP did not account for was the widespread damage that their actions was going to cause among other winning party candidates. In typical LP shortsightedness, they apparently forgot that what happens to Robredo also has the same effect on their senators all the way down to councilors.
And so while the nation waits for the Comelec to make a decision, the LP once again stands as an example of how some people can be a victim if their own malice and incompetence.
WHY IN TUBURAN, BASILAN AND NOT IN NAGA CITY, CAMARINES SUR?
Madame Vice President,
I hope you stop doing this. You need to keep your remaining integrity intact. The results in a lot of districts in BASILAN, the vote shaving/inflating capital of the Philippines, are UNBELIEVABLE.
I’ll believe it if you can explain convincingly why you received this overwhelming result in Tuburan, Basilan:
…and not in your own bailiwick Naga City, which you said was better than Davao City:
I would expect you to get the Tuburan result in Naga City, just like how Duterte got it in his own bailiwick, Davao City:
Duterte – 96.59%
Roxas – 1.18%
Binay – 0.52%
Santiago – 0.26%
Poe – 1.42%
Seneres – 0.01%
…just like how Marcos Jr got that same overwhelming result in one of his bailiwicks, Laoag City, Ilocos Norte:
Robredo – 2.07%
Cayetano – 0.47%
Escudero – 1.04%
Honasan – 0.28%
Trillanes – 0.26%
In your case, you didn’t receive that overwhelming support in your OWN bailiwick, but in Tuburan, Basilan, which is part of the vote shaving/inflating capital of the Philippines. So, why does Tuburan love you more than Naga City loves you?
I still feel that you don’t have anything to do with it, but if you keep on defending Aquino, you’ll suffer.
With the release of the Statement of Campaign Expenditures by the candidates that ran in the 2016 elections, people – especially the voters – are able to get a glimpse of the personalities behind their candidates.
In the case of Robredo, Poe, etc, the lump sum declarations without any details as to who and how much each campaign contributor gave is less informative about the details, but speaks volumes about how these candidates operate. Transparency and accountability are governance principles that may or may not be important to them.
As for President-elect Rodrigo Duterte, by revealing the names of his contributors, he is putting the rest of the country on notice that he is not afraid to be scrutinized. And neither should the other members of his cabinet and all government officials. By setting the standard of integrity higher than it ever was, it is now up to others to follow his example. And failing, suffer the inevitable consequence.
But what the SOCE forms fails to account for, and here Duterte received more than any other candidate, is the contribution in time, effort, creativity, passion, and all around support given by millions of Filipinos on social media.
While it has been talked about over and over again, with “expert” analysis coming from all colors of the political spectrum, the phenomena that was Duterte’s social media surge may never be adequately explained nor accounted for. Being largely organic – despite what other candidates might say – it is almost impossible to track the growth of the movement and its overall impact on the campaign.
For the first time in Philippine history, the individual efforts of these so-called Dutertards – alone or in groups, on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram – proved more valuable than the hundreds of millions of pesos donated by the various campaign donors. And while it may be impossible to put a monetary value on these individual efforts of pure volunteerism, the results of their sacrifice cannot be denied. And on June 30, 2016 – as our new President takes his oath – we offer a silent prayer for his success and the continued vigilance of the Dutertards.