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.
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.*