HOW DUTERTE COM­PARES WITH TRUMP ON DIC­TA­TO­RIAL TEN­DEN­CIES

Trump can learn a thing or two from Duterte.

Business World - - OPINION - GREG B. MACABENTA

Icame upon a very in­ter­est­ing ar­ti­cle in writ­ten by Stephen M. Walt, a pro­fes­sor of in­ter­na­tional re­la­tions at Har­vard Uni­ver­sity, en­ti­tled, “Top 10 Signs of Creep­ing Au­thor­i­tar­i­an­ism, Re­vis­ited”

The ar­ti­cle poses a very in­trigu­ing ques­tion about Pres­i­dent Don­ald J. Trump: “Is the pres­i­dent look­ing more like a dic­ta­tor af­ter six months in the White House?”

The piece is ob­vi­ously dated be­cause Trump has been pres­i­dent of the United States for over a year now and the an­swer to Walt’s ques­tion is, “Yes, Trump is look­ing more like a dic­ta­tor af­ter a year in of­fice,” based on the top ten signs that the au­thor listed.

But what is even more strik­ing is how the same set of red flags ap­ply to Pres­i­dent Ro­drigo R. Duterte.

Walt’s check list of dic­ta­to­rial ten­den­cies fol­lows: For­eign Pol­icy Mag­a­zine

1. SYS­TEM­ATIC EF­FORTS TO IN­TIM­I­DATE THE ME­DIA:

Trump has openly waged war against the US me­dia, call­ing those crit­i­cal of him “fake” and their un­flat­ter­ing ac­counts of his gov­er­nance “fake news.” Ac­cord­ing to Walt, Trump has “ar­bi­trar­ily ex­cluded re­porters of some or­ga­ni­za­tions from press pools, press con­fer­ences and other events.”

The Duterte ad­min­is­tra­tion has not only ex­cluded a Rappler re­porter from cov­er­ing Mala­cañang, the pres­i­dent has ac­tu­ally warned “cor­rupt jour­nal­ists” that they are fair game for liq­ui­da­tion. Duterte has also used his pres­i­den­tial pow­ers against crit­i­cal me­dia or­ga­ni­za­tions like the ABS- CBN broad­cast net­work, Philip­pine Daily In­quirer and Rappler, which the Se­cu­ri­ties and Ex­change Com­mis­sion or­dered to be shut down.

2. BUILD­ING AN OF­FI­CIAL PRO-TRUMP ME­DIA NET­WORK:

Writes Walt: “There’s lit­tle doubt Trump has tried to fa­vor (me­dia) out­lets that em­brace him, which is why the White House gave press cre­den­tials to the right-wing blog Gate­way Pun­dit and has given the re­li­ably wacky and pro-Trump Bre­it­bart priv­i­leged ac­cess…there’s no sign that the pres­i­dent in­tends to build a pub­licly funded pro-Trump me­dia or­ga­ni­za­tion. But with Fox News and Sin­clair (chain of TV sta­tions) and the var­i­ous alt-right web­sites in his cor­ner, he may not need one.”

Duterte has done Trump one bet­ter in this re­gard. Early in Duterte’s pres­i­dency, his com­mu­ni­ca­tions chief, Mar­tin An­da­nar, ac­tively pushed for an “in­de­pen­dent state me­dia.” Re­cently, An­da­nar an­nounced an agree­ment with the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment for a “me­dia ex­change pro­gram.”

Said An­da­nar, “We all know that the Xin­hua News Agency is one of the most suc­cess­ful news agen­cies in the world and the CCTV is also one of the largest broad­cast­ing net­works in the world; China Ra­dio In­ter­na­tional also.”

With­out any doubt, China’s con­trol of me­dia op­er­a­tions and con­tent is some­thing that the Duterte gov­ern­ment is sali­vat­ing over.

How­ever, Duterte did not in­vent au­thor­i­tar­ian con­trol over me­dia. The un­la­mented Pres­i­dent Fer­di­nand Mar­cos saw this as a req­ui­site for main­tain­ing power and ev­ery pres­i­dent since then has, to some de­gree, taken the same at­ti­tude.

3. POLITI­CIZ­ING THE CIVIL SER­VICE, MIL­I­TARY, NA­TIONAL GUARD, OR THE DO­MES­TIC SE­CU­RITY AGEN­CIES.

In this re­gard Trump can learn a thing or two from the Philip­pines about con­trol­ling gov­ern­ment agen­cies, as well as os­ten­si­bly “co- equal” bodies like the leg­is­la­ture and the ju­di­ciary.

While Trump can only ex­press ex­as­per­a­tion over his lack of con­trol over the of­fice of the At­tor­ney Gen­eral (the equiv­a­lent of the Philip­pines’ Depart­ment of Jus­tice), Duterte and ev­ery pres­i­dent be­fore him, par­tic­u­larly Mar­cos, have lorded it over lap­dogs and bootlick­ers in ev­ery branch of gov­ern­ment, mainly be­cause of the Golden Rule (He who has the gold makes the rules).

Of course, it can’t be said that Trump hasn’t tried nor is he ex­pected to stop try­ing any­time soon. And if you think the Repub­li­can-dom­i­nated US Sen­ate and the House are “in­de­pen­dent” of Trump, think again.

4. US­ING GOV­ERN­MENT SUR­VEIL­LANCE AGAINST DO­MES­TIC PO­LIT­I­CAL OP­PO­NENTS.

Here again is an area where Duterte, as well as past Philip­pine pres­i­dents, trump Trump in the dic­ta­to­rial depart­ment, al­though it is said that send­ing the blood­hounds of the In­ter­nal Rev­enue Ser­vice af­ter po­lit­i­cal painsin-the-neck is not be­yond the in­cli­na­tions of White House oc­cu­pants. The dif­fer­ence is that, in the Philip­pines, us­ing gov­ern­ment power as a sledge­ham­mer against po­lit­i­cal op­po­nents is SOP, while it is done with greater sub­tlety in the US.

5. US­ING STATE POWER TO RE­WARD COR­PO­RATE BACK­ERS AND PUN­ISH OP­PO­NENTS.

Walt thinks the ten­dency of Trump for fa­voritism and nepo­tism is “Wor­ri­some, but not a big prob­lem so far.” But Walt did point out that the re­cent tax re­forms in­sti­tuted by Trump and the Repub­li­cans ob­vi­ously tilted heav­ily in fa­vor of the su­per rich. He also added that “All pres­i­dents ac­com­mo­date pow­er­ful in­ter­est groups that backed them, and Trump is no ex­cep­tion.”

But fa­vor­ing cronies and rel­a­tives is con­sid­ered nor­mal in the Philip­pines and Duterte and his gov­ern­ment are sim­ply liv­ing up to that clas­sic ax­iom, “What are we in power for?”

6. STACK­ING THE SUPREME COURT.

Ap­point­ing agree­able and com­pli­ant mem­bers of the High Court is a prerog­a­tive ex­er­cised by US and Philip­pine pres­i­dents, but the Philip­pines may leave Trump gap­ing with envy at the way Duterte not only thinks he can con­trol the Supreme Court, he has openly de­clared that the Chief Jus­tice is an “en­emy” and should be kicked out of her job.

7. EN­FORC­ING THE LAW FOR ONLY ONE SIDE.

Walt raises red flags here over Trump’s seem­ing tol­er­ance of right wing ex­trem­ism — even of out­right Nazism and racism. If Walt were in the Philip­pines, he won’t just be rais­ing red flags, he would be blow­ing the whis­tle, ring­ing the alarm bells, and sound­ing the sirens over the way “jus­tice” is dis­pensed.

8. RE­ALLY RIG­GING THE SYS­TEM.

Writes Walt about Trump: “…the de­mo­graph­ics of the US elec­torate give him (and the Repub­li­can Party) a big in­cen­tive to try to stack the deck in his fa­vor, and that in­cen­tive only in­creases the lower his ap­proval rat­ings go. How else can one ex­plain the trans­par­ently bo­gus ‘voter fraud com­mis­sion,’ headed by die-hard voter sup­pres­sion ad­vo­cate Kris Kobach…”

Once more, the Philip­pines is ahead of the US in the dic­ta­to­rial ten­dency depart­ment, al­though “dagdag-bawas” and “Gar­ci­fi­ca­tion” are prob­a­bly just more ad­vanced tech­niques for rig­ging the elec­tions that our politi­cians learned from Amer­ica’s no­to­ri­ous Tam­many Hall.

9. FEARMONGERING.

Both Trump and Duterte are mas­ters at ex­ploit­ing the fears and anx­i­eties of their po­lit­i­cal base and us­ing them to foist poli­cies that are unreasonable and even dan­ger­ous. But ev­ery despot, go­ing back to Hitler, Stalin, and Mao Tse­tung has used fearmongering to rouse sup­port from the masses.

10. DE­MO­NIZ­ING THE OP­PO­SI­TION.

If this is an in­di­ca­tion of a dic­ta­to­rial or au­thor­i­tar­ian ten­dency, then Trump and Duterte do not have a monopoly of this tac­tic. It seems to me that this comes nat­u­rally with be­ing a politi­cian. Mar­cos de­mo­nized Pres­i­dent Dios­dado Ma­ca­pa­gal. Pres­i­dent Cory Aquino de­mo­nized Mar­cos. Pres­i­dent Glo­ria Ma­ca­pa­gal-Ar­royo de­mo­nized Pres­i­dent Joseph Estrada. Pres­i­dent Benigno Aquino III de­mo­nized Ar­royo. And now, Duterte is de­mo­niz­ing Aquino and the “Yel­low Horde.”

Did I miss Pres­i­dent Fidel Ramos? Ac­tu­ally, he is the only one I know of who went out of his way to rec­on­cile with the op­po­si­tion, even while he too de­mo­nized his cousin, Mar­cos.

Walt con­cludes: “Pres­i­dent Trump does not have much re­spect for the ex­ist­ing con­sti­tu­tional or­der, es­pe­cially when it im­pinges on his per­sonal power or threat­ens his own po­si­tion.”

In other words, Trump has dic­ta­to­rial ten­den­cies.

If that sounds fa­mil­iar, that’s be­cause Duterte is ex­actly the same. To para­phrase the poet, Percy Bysshe Shel­ley, “When these ten signs come, can dic­ta­tor­ship be far be­hind”

GREG B. MACABENTA is an ad­ver­tis­ing and com­mu­ni­ca­tions man shut­tling be­tween San Fran­cisco and Manila and pro­vid­ing unique in­sights on is­sues from both per­spec­tives. greg­macabenta@hot­mail.com

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