Yesterday, President Rodrigo Duterte delivered his shortest but his most meaningful Sate of The Nation Address since his election in 2016. While his previous speeches detailed his overall planes to revitalise the fortunes of the nation, yesterday’s address was centred primarily on the key problem solving techniques relating to the most important issues facing the Philippines today.
In so far as this is the case, Duterte laid out his goals for tax reform, anti-red tape bureaucratic reform, the importance of pursuing the life saving war on drugs with ever more commitment, his readiness to embrace constitutional reform, his commitment to environmental preservation and revitalisation, as well as his goal of making the Philippine economy work for all people irrespective of their position in society or their location within The Philippines.
While Duterte’s speech was measured, to the point and deeply serious, the reactions of the Liberal opposition have been predictably hysterical. It seems that when Duterte pledges to decrease the power of his office and retire from the Presidency at the moment his current term expires, this makes him a “dictator”. It seems also that by seeking a relationship with China based on dialogue, cooperation and peace through prosperity, this somehow makes Duterte more “reckless” than those who want a militarily weak nation like The Philippines to take on China – a state with one of the most powerful armed forces in history. It further appears that renegade one-man band opposition “leader” Antonio Trillanes made up his mind about Duterte’s speech, days before it was even given.
It is perhaps ironic that while Duterte’s opponents have suddenly re-discovered their intense Catholicism in the aftermath of Duterte criticising the more hypocritical beliefs and practices of the Roman Catholic Church in The Philippines, that their de-facto faith is not in God or church doctrine but in a political programme that seeks to oppose everything Duterte does even when no rational argument can be articulated to covey the reasons behind the opposition.
Politicians refusing to shake the President’s hand even though he was happy to shake theirs’, those engaged in vulgar protests depicting the leader of a sovereign state as a foreign tyrant and condemning Duterte’s speech before it has been made, are not responses symptomatic of a reasoned counter-argument. Instead, these are products of faith – but not faith in the compassionate God that Duterte has spoken about. Rather, these responses are symptomatic of faith in one’s own ability to shift public opinion through histrionics rather than through anything remotely connected to reality.
All politics is fundamentally about problem solving. If one’s countrymen and women are poor, one needs to find a way to make their lives more materially comfortable. If the streets of a nation are filled with narco-terrorists, one must devise a plan to create a healthy and safe environment for all. If red tape is getting in the way of progress, one must find the right blade with which to cut it. If one’s Constitution is outdated and outmoded, one must devise and/or select the best proposals to amend it. Duterte pointed to all of these problems and more, while he then proposed ways in which he will continue to solve these problems.
On the opposite side of the debate, a statistical minority do not seek out alternative methods of problem solving but live in a state of denial whereby the problems that most Filipinos have identified as serious are non-existent. According to the tenants of worshipping the “yellow god”, the solution to fighting a war on drugs is making peace with those who terrorise innocent people while advocating a militant approach to foreign policy that will only cause destruction on a mass scale is somehow a means to achieve prosperity. How is it rational to not want to fight a war against drugs while wanting to fight a war against China? Such a manner of thinking is not only motivated by faith rather than reason, but it is further motivated by a faith which if practised to its logical conclusion would be a sign of madness.
It seems therefore that a “yellow god” is worshipped by Duterte’s political opponents where in a more functional political system, an opposition would attempt to offer counter-proposals based on rational problem solving techniques. Instead the “yellow god” must be satisfied at all times and this “yellow god” does not have any time for realism or honesty. Instead it demands faith in the ridiculous, devotion to the nonsensical and loyalty to that which cannot be questioned rather than that which can be offered in a serious discussion.
Once again, the only solution to even beginning to fix this problem is to implement a federal-parliamentary system where an opposition can be held to account for its morosely fantastical statements.