Sala­mat, Digong

Sun Star Bacolod - - Opinion -

Yes, you read it right.

I am sin­cerely and ut­terly grate­ful to Ro­drigo Duterte.

Of course, not for his di­a­bolic war on drugs or his to­tal con­tempt not just for hu­man rights but com­mon hu­man de­cency.

I guess it is the per­pet­ual op­ti­mist in me – some­thing I guess I must have in­her­ited from our par­ents – that drives me, no mat­ter how dark and hope­less ev­ery­thing may seem, to look for a sil­ver lin­ing.

And yes, this is un­doubt­edly one of the dark­est, most des­per­ate times in our re­cent his­tory as a na­tion and peo­ple what with pos­si­bly up to 30,000 or even more slaugh­tered in the name of a mis­be­got­ten war on drugs, the econ­omy in sham­bles, our sovereignt­y handed off for to­day’s equiv­a­lent of the prover­bial 30 pieces of sil­ver, and his seem­ing ob­ses­sion to drag us back into the iron grip of dic­ta­tor­ship.

Yes, the worst of times. Which, in the of­ten queer logic of the op­ti­mist, are also the best of times.

How so?

It is true that so many of the gains and lessons of EDSA ’86 have been lost or wasted, for a host of rea­sons.

First, among these, I main­tain, was al­low­ing the Mar­coses to flee the coun­try and the peo­ple’s jus­tice, and the fail­ure to hold ac­count­able those who en­abled and ben­e­fited from dic­ta­tor­ship’s bru­tal­ity and plun­der.

Then there was the ad­ven­tur­ism of a mil­i­tary spoiled by Mar­cos that was loathe to sub­mit to newly re­stored civil­ian rule, as well as the al­most im­me­di­ate res­ur­rec­tion of the oli­garchy and their un­scrupu­lous brand of gov­er­nance and pol­i­tics.

Of course, there was we, our­selves, who, for one rea­son or an­other – fa­tigue, res­ig­na­tion, ap­a­thy, dis­il­lu­sion­ment with how the more things changed the more they ac­tu­ally stayed the same – ba­si­cally al­lowed things to de­te­ri­o­rate. We did try again, I guess, in 2001 ex­cept that the cure turned out to be much worse – and ruled longer – than the dis­ease.

And then, lo and be­hold, Ro­drigo Roa Duterte was swept to the pres­i­dency on a wave of right­eous anger of peo­ple who re­mained mired in poverty and de­spair no mat­ter how great things seemed to be go­ing – and they ac­tu­ally were – en­thralled by his pop­ulist rhetoric into be­liev­ing him to be one of theirs and not an un­kempt, thug­gish mem­ber of the same oli­garchy they dis­dained and he feigned to.

So, yes, to re­peat para­graph 5 above, in two years and a half we are in un­doubt­edly one of the dark­est, most des­per­ate times in our re­cent his­tory as a na­tion and peo­ple what with pos­si­bly up to 30,000 or even more slaugh­tered in the name of a mis­be­got­ten war on drugs, the econ­omy in sham­bles, our sovereignt­y handed off for to­day’s equiv­a­lent of the prover­bial 30 pieces of sil­ver, and his seem­ing ob­ses­sion to drag us back into the iron grip of dic­ta­tor­ship.

But there’s the rub.

Just as it was dur­ing the Mar­cos dic­ta­tor­ship, it is when we seem to have hit rock bot­tom – or maybe be­cause we have – that our peo­ple have awak­ened and re­al­ized that things can­not go on the way they have.

Never since have we seen peo­ple from such a broad range of per­sua­sions and so­cial classes come to­gether to say they have had enough of this mur­der­ous, ve­nal ad­min­is­tra­tion. And never has this kind of push­back hap­pened so fast.

Just look at the com­ments sec­tions of news sto­ries. Once dom­i­nated by pro-ad­min­is­tra­tion trolls, the bal­ance has shifted, although alas, the pro­fan­i­ties of­ten make it hard to dis­tin­guish one side from the other.

Ac­tu­ally, since near the end of 2016, one of my most ac­cu­rate so­cial barom­e­ters – taxi driv­ers – had al­ready be­gun to ex­press dis­sat­is­fac­tion with the pres­i­dent many ac­knowl­edged hav­ing voted for, most of them hor­rorstruck by the wors­en­ing killings. To­day, I can­not re­call the last time a cab­bie rooted for him.

By and large, we Filipinos are po­lite to a fault. Rid­ing jeep­neys, I’ve ob­served that when some­one praises the govern­ment, one, two at most, will agree, ev­ery­one else keeps silent. But let some­one rail against, say, the lat­est price hike and, Boom! Makes one won­der what could hap­pen should some­one pull off the smart-aleck com­ment: “Ba­hala na ma­matay sa gutom basta Duterte pa rin.”

Hon­estly, I feel peo­ple still need to look be­yond their dif­fer­ences and work on build­ing uni­ties be­fore was can achieve the change we seek. Many will need to move out­side their com­fort zones – and comfy homes – and em­brace the risks in­her­ent to mean­ing­ful change, oth­ers ac­knowl­edge short­com­ings and re­al­ize that a lit­tle hu­mil­ity never killed any­one. I be­lieve this is doable.

In­deed, if Duterte has suc­ceeded at any­thing at all, it is prov­ing that, when some­one like him comes along and makes a mess, you can ex­pect the Filipino peo­ple to come to­gether and stand up for what is right.

So, yes, sala­mat, Digong. By be­ing your worst, you have brought out the best in us. And be­lieve me, that’s much more than just one man’s opin­ion.*

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