PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte has talked about establishing a revolutionary government a number of times. One of these was last August during the mass oath-taking ceremony in Malacañang for his new appointees. His statement on that topic at that time, I would say, gave us a glimpse of the president’s mindset.
“For me, my advice to a president who wants to change (is) do not go for martial law. They will just make an issue of it. Go for a revolutionary government so that everything will be finished,” he said.
Here, the president was clearly differentiating revolutionary government from a martial law government, preferring the former to avoid the hurdles (“they will just make an issue of it”) and because it could better effect thoroughgoing “change” (“everything will be finished”).
But the president proceeded to cite the revolutionary government that then president Corazon Aquino established after the successful 1986 Edsa People Power uprising. “If Cory can do it, why can’t you also do it? Why? Is there a monopoly here for our love of country?” the president had said.
The president here was talking about the kind of the power that Cory wielded at that time, not of the circumstances that led Cory to establish a revolutionary government. It was an extraordinary situation considering that Cory was pushed to the presidency on the strength of a successful uprising and had to rebuild the country’s political institutions from the ruins of the Marcos dictatorship.
Besides, Cory was an outsider before she assumed power as head of a revolutionary government. The president—or dictator—before her was Ferdinand Marcos. When the uprising successfully ousted Marcos that was when Cory came in.
The setup now is vastly different from the one when Cory became president. Duterte became president through an election, not via a revolution. Being a president, he is an insider. To establish a revolutionary government, he has to oust his own administration, then seize power back himself—an absurdity.
But back to his point in that August speech. He was merely talking about seizure of absolute power—not just presidential power. In this sense, the best model would be Marcos himself. True, Marcos didn’t declare a revolutionary government—he probably knew it was absurd—but declared military rule with the end in view of seizing dictatorial power. It was a coup against his own government.
And Marcos was indeed successful in effecting tchange. Didn’t he call it “Revolution from the Center.” Only that that change didn’t “make the Philippines great again” but brought us to perdition.
Marcos can therefore be a model of a president seizing absolute power for himself. But he was an intellectual giant, ruthless and a smooth operator. He knew, for example, from where political power grows: “from the barrel of the gun” as Mao Zedong would put it. It was only in 1986 when his hold on the military broke.
Which brings me to my point. Anybody who wants to seize power, whether via martial law or revolutionary government, needs a military that does not adhere to the constitution but is fanatically loyal to the one that wants to seize absolute power. Do we have such a military now?