All these months we’ve had more Duterte days than others. It’s all in the aberrant nature of the subject.
Rodrigo Duterte is the ultimate oddity, the precise sort that defines—in the classic professional sense, the one thing that can make or unmake our day—the news: He is the man that bites the dog.
And he is running for president.
Doubtless a natural, he looks able indeed to sustain the aberration without any effort, such that even on this day, the one day of the year that we reserve for honoring universally the most exalted person in our lives, he does not fail to insinuate himself. And here, he yet surpasses himself.
He does it worse than by biting mothers; he degrades them with his favorite profanity at every turn. And given the crisp, almost theatrical quality of its enunciation— not to mention the randy way he treats women in general —it’s difficult to be mistaken for something occurring out of habit, therefore unintended. Steadfastly unapologetic, he even promotes it as self-authenticity. But then, the more he is reproached for it the more he does it, and the more he does it the more he looks intent with it.
Mother’s Day falling coincidentally on the eve of Election Day, it must be telling us something.
Come to think of it, Duterte is the precise kind of boy mothers warn children about. Unfortunately, too many children just couldn’t wait to outgrow mothering. In that case, trust the less sparing hand of history to take over and deal with them in ways that grow more and more severe until they learn their lessons.
Dutertes are neither native nor exclusive to us, to be sure; they are a recurrent visitation that chooses no nation. As happens, a Duterte recurs too often too soon in our case. Easily the worst visitation has been that of Ferdinand Marcos. We thought him and his likes decisively licked by our million-people protest vigil at Edsa—and that was only a generation ago. We have since continued to be proved more and more wrong.
The costs of unlearned lessons from Edsa have in fact become so compounded we’re now looking at what may be the worst visitation yet. And let it not be said
that we have not been well warned.
After the two presidencies succeeding Marcos had put us on the road to recovery from the trauma of his murders and plunder, we elected Joseph Estrada, who, sitting for only two years, got himself impeached, subsequently to be convicted. His own vice president and successor, Gloria Arroyo, pardoned him, a benevolence the motive for which her own similar conduct in office put in question.
Serving Estrada’s remaining four years and the full ensuing six she had earned in a vote credibly suspected rigged, Arroyo ended her term in equal ignominy: She has landed in jail herself, while on trial for plunder.
Now, after a good economic run under Benigno Aquino III and a bold shot at social reform, we seem ready to shoot ourselves again hopefully only in the foot—by electing Rodrigo Duterte.
Caught in his own words, Duterte would appear a far more malignant visitation than Estrada. He is not averse to an extralegal, dead-squad approach to crime. He may be clueless about what he is talking about, but that becomes precisely scary of one who not only fashions oneself as a socialist but in fact openly admits to an inclination to a revolutionary presidency and deals obsequiously with the communists—with no less than its supremo, José Ma. Sison, whom he addresses consistently deferentially, “Sir.”
It is little consolation that the senator and vice presidential candidate Antonio Trillanes IV vows to get him impeached if his election could not be prevented, for the parallels are just too uncanny to be anything other than vengeance of history. And to project events along those lines: If Duterte were indeed elected but just the same dispatched by impeachment in the end, his successor could be Ferdinand Marcos Jr.
The Marcos family would seem the better students of history; if not, how could they have managed to be back in power so soon? Ferdinand Jr., already a senator, has been the front-runner in the vice presidential race until the last survey, but remains tied statistically with the new leader, Leni Robredo. In other words, he remains very much in contention.
President after the impeached Duterte, Ferdinand Jr. could inspire another Edsa. But, not to be condemned to repeat history, like the good student of it that he has been proving himself, he will not make the mistake of his ambivalent father: He will shoot into the crowd.
If you don’t want to listen to your mothers, at least listen to history.