Devotion

SUPPORTERS OF President Rodrigo Duterte converged at the Quezon Memorial Circle Saturday afternoon in response to a “national call to unity and patriotism” made by the PDP-Laban and the Mayor Rodrigo Roa Duterte National Executive Coordinating Committee (MRRD NECC). It appears the event had the backing of the DILG, as one Facebook user reported. The theme was “People’s Call for Patriotism,” with the subtext “Our Love for the President is our Love for our Country.”

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Despite the heat, hundreds came to avow solidarity for their dear leader. Speeches resonated with the patriotic theme and a challenge to Senators Leila de Lima and Antonio Trillanes to change their ways and support Duterte’s war on drugs.

The highlight of the shindig was the pledge of loyalty and devotion led by DILG USec. Emily Padilla, in which the gathering confirmed that Duterte is the only leader capable of eliminating national problems.

Did you watch the video? Did it give you goosebumps? It did me. Eerily reminiscent of Nazi assemblies of the late 1930s, just before Adolf Hitler swept into Poland with bloody intent, this small crowd with its clenched fists may be a grim harbinger of social debacle.

I didn’t think it was possible, but something scares me more than the war on drugs. It is the torrid, often unthinking devotion poured onto Duterte by his ardent partisans. Mysteriously, they militantly take up the cudgels despite his obvious flaws. Publish his missteps, vulgarity, obnoxiousness, and absurdities locally and internationally, it doesn’t matter; to them he can do no wrong. He is as pristine and fragile as an alabaster vase and must be protected at all cost. How they reconcile this with his Dirty Harry persona is just one example of the extreme cognitive dissonance that is as rampant today as pimples on a teenybopper.

This grieves me terribly because I once thought (naively, I realize) that despite our regional differences, we Filipinos are kinfolk. I didn’t anticipate the magnitude of pent-up resentment now erupting in our midst. It’s an “us” vs. “them” scenario, except that both factions are Filipino and should be naturally identifying with each other, not against.

One side owns Duterte and the other disowns him. Their motivations are as distant as the Marianas Trench is deep. We are not all meant to agree, of course. But I do hope we can disagree amicably and base our positions on reasoned arguments, not mere partisanship.

I am not for Duterte, I have made no secret of that. But I am able to respect the fact that he won the presidency. Now, misgivings aside, my desire is for him to conduct himself appropriately (if he cannot behave admirably), be accountable for his errors, and steer this country into progress. Yes, I understand the severity of the drug problem. No, I will not jettison human rights to solve it.

I appreciate the early successes of the Duterte administration which occurred because he demanded results. The man can lead. I have applauded the steps made by some of his alter egos (for instance, DEPED Sec. Leonor Briones, DOH Sec. Paulyn Rosell-Ubial, and HUDCC Chair Leni Robredo) that are improving the programs in their departments. I wish we could learn more about what the other departments are doing, but unfortunately, Duterte himself takes up so much media space, almost nothing is heard about the rest.

Still, these do not alleviate the intense pressure brought on society by the violence and severity of his war on drugs. I was shocked to learn that the death toll has already surpassed the 3,240 who were killed during the 14 years of Martial Law:

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Screenshot from http://www.rappler.com/newsbreak/iq/145814-numbers-statistics-philippines-war-drugs

The concern expressed locally and abroad bears attention. This will not go away no matter how paranoid the conspiracy theories get and how vitriolic the Duterte apologists become. (Plan B? Who is left in the Liberal Party to plan anyway?) We must face facts maturely as a nation and not inflict ourselves with the heebie jeebies whenever Duterte is criticized.

For the record: not everyone who opposes Duterte is a yellowtard, bayaran, oligarch, elitist who merely wants to remove Duterte because he doesn’t like him. If we have objections, we have cause for them.

[Again, for the record: I did not vote for Noynoy Aquino. I did not believe in his ability to lead. I am not a fan of the Liberal Party. In fact, I am disgusted by the rapid change of skin of most of its members, and the flaccidity of those who remained. I am appalled that it has not issued any ideological statement about the current goings-on or even a message of support for Vice-President Robredo and Sen. de Lima. These two women have shown more chutzpah and acumen than their male colleagues, by the way. Surely, as a major political party – and considering its heritage – now is the time for the LP to step up, but its inertia is glaring.]

So no, it’s not about partisanship. I will not side with anyone just because. There has got to be a solid justification, and for me they are, as I believe they are for many, justice, fairness, liberty, righteousness, progress, and peace. I will criticize and oppose those who stand in the way of that, even if he happens to be the humongously popular leader of our land.

And yes, the clenched fists at this afternoon’s rally trouble me. If the report is true and the DILG helped organize it, then I expect more of the same nationwide. It seems to be part of a quiet campaign I will euphemistically term “persuasion” that I have seen waged back in the bad old days of the Dictator Marcos. I wish the agencies of government would busy themselves with empowering the people to think clearly and think for themselves instead of indoctrinating them in the way of Duterte. Instead, we see this government empowering the police and the military in the guise of what I will euphemistically call “peace and order.”

Yet even so, the 16 million raise their fists and shout hurrah! Me, I’d rather be like this guy.

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Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.

Romans 12:2

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