, April 24, 2024

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Rody’s Autumn

  •   3 min reads
Rody’s Autumn
Photo Courtesy : The Sydney Morning Herald|AARON FAVILA

In the eyes of many, Duterte is a powerful man diminished. But it is a reality he chooses to deny

By Joey Salgado

A day after a small committee at the House of Representatives stripped the Office of Vice President Sara Duterte and the Education Department, where she is the Secretary, of confidential funds, Rody the father went on live television to defend his daughter and attack the Speaker. The former president tagged the Speaker as his daughter’s rival in the 2028 presidential election, from whom accountability and transparency must be exacted. 

Not surprisingly, he also gave a spirited defense of China, its intimidating power and supposed benevolence.

But we are no longer under a Duterte presidency where he can hijack precious airtime and spark acrimonious online debates with his lengthy but meandering, profanity-ridden speeches. The former president dissed the Speaker, the Makabayan Bloc, and other critics of his daughter on fringe cable television. The audience was smaller. Where before he commanded headlines, today his statements provide content for art cards on social media news sites.

In the eyes of many, Duterte is a powerful man diminished. But it is a reality he chooses to deny. Yes, he came to the defense of a daughter in distress, which is but natural for a parent. But this is perhaps more about him than his daughter, a feeble power move to reassert his clout and remind everyone that he is still around. More than one year out of power, the patriarch from Davao refuses to welcome his autumn.

Presidential Communications Operations Office | Wikimedia Commons

Perhaps the former president yearns for those days when his word was law, bringing mighty oligarchs to their knees and inspiring murderous online rage among his supporters. Once he wielded the power of the purse to ensure loyalty, and the awesome machinery of government to stoke fear among his critics and whoever catches his ire. But that time has passed. 

One wonders whether a public that has embraced a new President with a different public demeanor and disposition would readily abandon their fealty and welcome the former leader back. It is a tempting although unwelcome possibility. Periods of uncertainty are breeding grounds for despots. And the current economic difficulties are seemingly being exploited to create a demand for the former president’s return, or for the ascendance of another Duterte in 2028.

What is being promised is a return to discipline and order, but it is discipline and order that stands on the crushed bones of victims of summary killings. 

What is being offered is a return to intolerance and hate perpetuated by those who wield power. But such intolerance and hate has infected even the so-called enlightened and decent segments of society who have chosen to fight fire with fire, to perpetuate online the same intolerance and hate they despise.

It is a return to a nation and a people damaged and divided, an economy in tatters, and a bureaucracy broken by scandal, ineptitude, amateurism, and inefficiency. 

If the speculations are correct, a decision has been made for Duterte the father to run for the Senate in 2025 and lead a separate slate. His victory is seen as inevitable. The intent is to awaken an inert political base and pave the way for a Duterte restoration in 2028 through a daughter stuck this early in the bog of self-inflicted controversy.

Public Domain

From now until 2028, we can expect Duterte the father and daughter, and the usual coterie of megaphones on legs, to be ever present in our news feeds. But, really, is there room in national politics for two Dutertes? How many can we really tolerate? 

Can someone hand me something sweet?  Na-uumay na ako.

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