Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte campaigned on pledges to dramatically change the Philippine economy, to likewise historically change the way government is organised in the country (federalism), to fight and win the battle against narco-terrorism, to fight and win the battle against Takfiri terrorism, to bring peace to the Moro communities of Mindanao, to either neutralise or negotiate a piece with the far-left NPA terror group and to revitalise the health and well-being of the Filipino nation.
Duterte has already scored multiple successes on these fronts, but perhaps his most important battle is his battle against what Filipinos would be wise to refer to as the “deep church”. Yesterday I wrote the following about the overwhelmingly negative meddling political influence that the Roman Catholic Church has on the temporal politics of the nation:
“Every nation has an un-elected aspect of its government that in recent years has become widely referred to as the “deep state”. This can include formal bodies such as intelligence agencies or central banks while in a broader sense the deep state can include powerful corporate interests, lobbying group and even the influence of vested foreign interests. But in The Philippines, there is not so much a deep state as there is a ‘deep church’. President Rodrigo Duterte has vowed to diminish the meddling role that the Roman Catholic Church plays in the temporal politics of the nation – something that is in-line with the Constitutionally mandated separation of church and state.
Duterte has been intentionally “shaking the tree” regarding the role of the Roman Catholic Church in the country’s politics and society. The President has challenged taboos regarding the culture of guilt that the Church has instilled among ordinary people, while he has likewise welcomed people to find paths to the divine that do not necessarily go through the Church. Furthermore, Duterte has embraced a number of causes designed to break the hegemonic political influence of the neo-colonial Church in society, most recently by affirming his position in favour of legislation to legalise same-sex unions”.
When Donald Trump ran for office, he vowed to “drain the swamp” of Washington’s deep state. While Trump’s record on this is up for debate, what is clear is that Duterte has remained steadfast in his aim to diminish the power of institutions throughout the country that get in the way of the people’s health, happiness and prosperity. Whether taking on the elite political class of Imperial Manila, the corporate oligarchs who have ruined pristine places of beauty like Boracay, corrupt police, politicians and civil servants who are on the take from the narco-trade and inefficient officials in tax offices, Duterte’s anti-corruption drive has been vast and crucial to the long term well being of the nation.
But in taking on the wealthy, corrupt and politically meddlesome Roman Catholic Church, Duterte has decided to take on an institution that predates the existence of the modern post-colonial Republic of The Philippines. In taking on the Church, Duterte is taking on a symbol of the colonial mentality that for years has gotten away with using political movements for its own material gain as was thoroughly catalogued in the new book Altar of Secrets: Sex, Politics and Money in the Philippine Catholic Church by Aries Rufo.
Duterte is well away that an obscenely wealthy church in a country where many still go to bed hungry, is one with its priorities in all the wrong places. He knows too that scandals ranging from child molestation to adultery and involvement with the drug trade should not be allowed to be hidden by clerics behind the cross whose meaning such activities tarnishes. Duterte is also aware that for The Philippines to join other successful so-called Asian Tiger economies, the separation of church and state must be inalienable as it is in all other successful small and large economies in the region.
Duterte has also taken his battle against the deep church further by offering Filipinos a chance to open their minds that in many cases were forced shut by years of deep church dogma and in some cases by physical abuse. Duterte has joined a list of activists and artistic heroes from throughout the post-colonial developing world who embraced God and faith but rejected institutionalised organised religion as a relic of a colonial past.
For Duterte, The Philippines is capable of becoming a society where worldly wealth and interpersonal faith can exist harmoniously. For Duterte, The Philippines should be a place where spiritual figures are there to uplift and inspire rather than molest the bodies of young children and molest the political sovereignty of a legally secular nation. For Duterte, the last vestiges of the colonial mentality will only end when clerics begin working for the people rather than working for their own agenda that often times has little to do with God, charity or The Bible – in many cases the deep church’s agenda runs contrary to God, charity and The Bible simultaneously. Ultimately, Duterte seeks to give his people freedom balanced by lawful order where one’s religiosity, family life and future are a matter of conscience decided from within rather than dogma dictated to by institutions who refuse to change with the times.
Diehard Duterte Supporters (known in The Philippines as DDS) must come to name and shame the deep church just as the deep church itself is now in a strange and at times ideologically contradictory alliances with all of Duterte’s major rivals, opponents and outright enemies. Duterte’s battle against the deep church will be more pivotal in defining the future of a re-born Philippine nation than any foreign politician’s battle with an ultimately worldly deep state.
While Duterte is a temporal democratically elected leader, his work is in many aspects reflective of the message of Jesus Christ, a Prophet who never sought to found his own organised religion, but a Prohet who rebelled against the corruption, obscene wealth and un-ethical behaviour of the organised religion of his place and time. Just as Christ threw the money changers out of the Temple, so too is Duterte throwing the deep church out of the secular life of a modern nation and in so doing, he will help to liberate his people from one of the last remaining forms of colonial mental slavery that continues to blight The Philippines.