Philippine President Rodrigo Roa Duterte represents a clear break from the multiple pasts of Philippine leadership on many levels. Perhaps the most obvious break from the past is that unlike all of his predecessors, Duterte is from Mindanao and has never attempted to adopt the customs of the Imperial Manila elite. Duterte’s straightforward manner of speech is that of a people’s president rather than a patrician president. In terms of his foreign policies, Duterte has uniquely broken with the colonial past and neo-colonial recent past in order to pursue modern nonalignment in order to pursue the best economic and security arrangements for his nation. But perhaps most importantly, Duterte is unique in that he has begun a process of healing among the Filipino people that ought to be discussed much more widely. At present this healing process is either denied or ignored by the mainstream media in The Philippines.
In spite of his opposition to Liberalism, Duterte paid tribute to the Ninoy Aquino on the 35th anniversary of his death. Duterte however is also remembered as the President who allowed the remains of long serving President Ferdinand Marcos to be respectfully interred at the Heroes Cemetery in 2016. It is a true pity and beyond that it is a disgrace that the mainstream media in The Philippines has ignored the duality of Duterte’s actions which indicates that as a national leader he seeks to heal the wounds between supporters of Marcos and supporters of Aquino even at a time where the heirs to both political dynasties are very much active political figures.
Duterte clearly wants his country to move into the future and one of the key things that any leader must achieve in order to peacefully accomplish this is by healing manifold wounds of the past whether they be objectively real or real enough in so far as they are perceived by those with a partisan interest.
Russia’s current and long serving President Vladimir Putin has helped heal the wounds of his country’s tumultuous 20th century by preserving both the imagery, art, nomenclature and holistic culture of the Tsarist period along with that of the Communist era. While some Russians, particularly older ones still quarrel over the pros and cons of Tsarism vis-a-vis Communism, for most Russians, Putin has made it so that the young generation is both proud of the accomplishments of all of Russia’s pasts while Russians are free to engage in debates, dialogue and discussions about the comparative virtues and vices of competing past system. This has helped Russia to focus on the future rather than have contemporary political debates shaped by tiresome questions about the past.
In South Africa, Nelson Mandela had an even more difficult task of how to reconcile the victims of Apartheid with the operators and beneficiaries of Apartheid without causing further national discord. Mandela set up the Truth and Reconciliation Commission where past victims and past aggressors could address one another without the fear of punishment and safe in the knowledge that their future freedoms would be protected by the rule of law. While South Africa has clearly developed new social challenges since Mandela left office, without Mandela’s unifying agenda, one could only image the levels of violence that the nation might have otherwise seen.
Duterte’s words and actions are similar to those of Putin and Mandela but the hysterically confrontational nature of the Philippine media which was astutely derided by Singapore’s founder Lee Kuan Yew has prevented this obvious truth from being clearly articulated before the nation. Rather than allow both Ferdinand Marcos and Ninoy Aquino to rest in peace and become figures who arouse discussion rather than emotion, the pro-Liberal mainstream media and academic elite are besotted with painting the rivalry as a kind of perpetual psychological war rather than noticing that Duterte has uniquely paid tribute to both the deceased Marcos and the deceased Aquino in spite of having very different relations with their politically active children.
A nation needn’t judge its children by the legacy of their parents even though to some extent such things are inevitable. But to the Liberal media, the very idea that someone called Marcos could likely be a future Philippine President is somehow wicked, although it is no more wicked than the idea that two Aquinos have been President over the last thirty years and that such things are equally distasteful to pro-Marcos Filipinos.
The fact of the matter is that the nation should follow Duterte in allowing both larger than life figures to rest in order for them to be discussed by rather than worshipped by their supporters and likewise, factually rather than emotionally condemned by their detractors. This would help the nation to judge the record of former President Noynoy Aquino and aspiring Vice President and possible future President Bongbong Marcos on their merits rather than on those of their fathers. While the Liberals fear a would be President Bongbong Marcos, the truth is that such a thing would be a tribute to the fact that the heirs to both families have the right to peacefully compete in democratic elections, ideally under a reformed parliamentary system where both sides could peacefully debate each other on a daily basis.
Rodrigo Duterte is a President who has set in place all of the necessary steps to foment a national leap forward into a more politically mature future that is aware of but not obsessed with its past. Meanwhile, the Liberal media and agitating academics fail to realise that moralising constantly about the past does nothing but rape the next generation of its future.