WHEN Duterte threatened to transform his regime into a revolutionary government recently, with plans of usurping the powers of co-equal branches of government, and propping up the military as his implementor and administrator, it was not totally surprising at all. What he had undertaken in the first year of his administration is essentially to lay down the groundwork for such by testing the limits of his powers by waging a brutal drug war, scuttling the peace talks with the Left, and muzzling the systems of checks and balances put in place by the Constitution.
These are all textbook moves by an aspiring strongman driven by wayward paternal instincts that manifest in absolutist and purely militarist solutions. The rise of such leaders seem to be churned out in great regularity by a social system that has not gotten over its feudal ways. Just as people crave for political messiahs, there seems to be no letup also in the creation of leaders who have that kind of sick paternal complex.
A cursory look at recent history would reveal that the clamor for deep-rooted and comprehensive social change is actually not the exclusive demand of the Left. Instead, at various points in the nation’s history, a militarist faction had always offered this as an alternative to rid the country of what they consider to be its foremost social ills.
And once again, just as Marcos offered his ideology of a “New Society” as a justification for dictatorship, a similar ideological position is now coalescing around Duterte and the military leadership which he has courted and spoiled in his first year in office.
The Marawi siege seem to strengthen and solidify this increasingly rightist point of view – the enemy is within and the nation and its government must brace itself for more wars against our own people.
First, it was Isis extremists, but the same dogs of war are actually being unleashed against the Supreme Court, the Ombudsman, the striking jeepney drivers, and urban poor communities facing demolition even anonymous online bloggers and more.
The statement of General Año announcing the new concentration of war against the New People’s Army after the end of the hostilities in Marawi is telling of this disposition. The hubris of ending the leftist armed insurgency in its 50th year of existence by 2018 next year speaks of the confidence the military in getting the ear of the president. Or it could be an indication that it is the other way around i.e. it is actually the military calling the literal and figurative shots.
This kind of rightist military adventurism is actually ripe in the history of Philippine military institutions. When they assume greater political roles instead of being a supposed professional organization, the kind that Duterte is shaping our institutions to be, that is when our young fledging democratic experiments as a people are threatened.
One of the frustrations, for instance, of the rightist elements who formed the group Reform the Armed Forces Movement in the pre and post-86 period who felt they won the coup for Cory Aquino was when she was perceived to be generally lenient to progressive forces. The killing of Bayan leader Lean Alejandro in 1987 was supposedly a warning to Cory Aquino’s government to clamp down on the personalities of the Left.
It is not difficult to see existing parallelisms to that period of
Philippine history and the present. President Duterte was initially perceived to be a Leftist president who steadily and surely unraveled his unmistakable rightist persona in a short span of a year. The threat to declare an authoritarian revolutionary government is just in keeping with this expected dynamic of the far right in the face of the forced scuttling of the peace talks and the constant political and economic crises the nation is mired in.
What is wrong with a rightist “revolutionary” government after all?
Well, it would hardly be revolutionary actually but more of the same and more, with the emphasis on more.
The same neoliberal economic policies that have victimized the poor in the past administrations will continue with the intensity of job contractualization ratcheted up a notch or more higher; including urban poor community demolitions, militarization of rural communities for the entry and expansion of extractive industries such as mining and agricultural expansion, and other forms of development aggression.
What is revolutionary in this model is the absolute power granted for the same greedy interests in the name of their pro-business notions of peace and progress. From these lenses, it is hardly revolutionary at all actually but a tired refrain, an unwelcome throwback to our nation’s dark recurring past.