While Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s detractors have stated that the arrest of the mutinous Senator Antonio Trillanes was something amounting to the “death of democracy” in The Philippines, the actual democratic populace of the country has rendered the opposite verdict. While Duterte has remained highly popular across multiple opinion polls from the time of his election in the summer of 2016 up until the present day, new figures show that his numbers have only go up since the arrest of Trillances was re-ordered in connection with the disgraced hothead’s anti-national activities during the Presidency of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.
According to the Inquirer, a publication not known for taking a positive view of Duterte,
“In survey conducted from Sept. 15 to 23, about 70 percent of adult Filipinos were satisfied, 16 percent were dissatisfied while 14 percent were undecided. This was five points higher than the June 2018 survey result showing only 65 percent were satisfied. Meanwhile, 20 percent were dissatisfied and 15 percent were undecided last June 2018”.
In this sense, far from even needing to attack democratic institutions as his opponents accuse him of doing, democracy is in reality Duterte’s best friend. His popularity remains such that the kinds of crackdowns necessary to pursue and enact the rule of a genuinely unpopular autocrat are simply not needed as Duterte is perfectly capable of commanding a genuine and incredibly consistent democratic mandate without resorting to any political extremes.
In this sense, while Duterte is also erroneously called a “killer” by his increasingly small (however loud) band of critics, the only thing Duterte is killing his opponents with is kindness. Politics in The Philippines has now reached a stage in which no matter how much Duterte invokes his colourful language, he simply cannot complete with the unintentional comedic hysteria of his opponents. Because of this, Duterte has tended to embrace the volatility of his critics in so far as he is letting them incriminate themselves by effectively allowing them to perjure themselves in the public square, all the while the President continues to businesses of effective government.
The paradox of the entire scenario is as follows: in Duterte’s Philippines, more and more obstructionist and criminal politicians are facing genuine justice which while non-politicised, is naturally clearly popular among Duterte’s supporters. At the same time, never have a group of disgraced politicians been as vocal throughout the period of their so-called “oppression” as have Duterte’s chief rivals who also happen to be as corrupt as their public police and court records demonstrate. Furthermore, it is the very fact that Duterte remains highly popular that even if he wanted to (and he has given zero indication that he does) offer a tough “strongman” crack-down on his opponents, in reality he has little need for this at the moment as in spite of the hysterical theatrics of his opponents, they represent an infinitesimally small portion of the Philippine population.
Of course, just because their numbers are small, this does not mean that the long term danger they pose is slim. On the contrary, history shows that a small number of agitators both within and outside of the political class are able to overthrow entire nations when fortune is on the side of the traitors. As recently as 2016, a small group of FETO terrorists who had infiltrated the Turkish military, intelligence, civil service and also the media and academia came close to overthrowing the legitimate government of the Republic of Turkey with the aim to replace it with a terrorist Islamist regime. It was only the swift action taken by Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to bring the terrorists to justice at all levels of society that eventually restored peace, law and order to the streets of Turkey.
Likewise, if China did not face down sedition in the 1980s with a clear set of actions steps, the prosperous Chinese society that is admired by the wider world in the 21st century might never have come about. In the 1980s, the market socialism reforms of Deng Xiaoping helped China to modernise its economy without compromising the ideological, social and cultural integrity of the state. Deng’s model is, for all intents and purposes, responsible for transforming China from a large but struggling agrarian economy into the leading industrial economy of the world which it is today. The fact that China’s great cities are among the most modern, beautiful, cleanest and safest in the world today, is owed to the thought and policies of Deng Xiaoping, as much as it is to contemporary leaders.
The reforms of Deng Xiaoping contrast sharply with those of his Soviet counterpart Mikhail Gorbachev and his chief ideologue Alexander Yakovlev. Whereas Deng Xiaoping transformed the Chinese economy while strengthening existing cultural institutions, Gorbachev set out to destroy the most important institutions of the nation while allowing a “liberalised” economy to eventually collapse under its own chaotic weight. The reforms predictably ended in a nightmare for the vast majority of Soviet citizens.
However, all great reforms whether successful ones like Deng Xiaoping’s or failed ones such as those of Gorbachev, have their incomplete components which are rife for exploitation.
During China in the 1980s, an increased number of so-called intellectuals went to academic institutions in the United States where they became seduced by and intentionally programmed by US government operatives keen to see a seditious revolt in the People’s Republic of China–one with the ultimate goal of bringing the regime in Chinese Taipei (aka Taiwan) back to power in Beijing.
Because a readymade regime in Chinese Taipei existed which salivated for power over all of China, the CIA and other aggressive actors did not need to go to the effort of forging a new regime or political model—they simply needed to create agitation among a class of elites in Beijing in order to try and bring down the People’s Republic of China.
Hu Yaobang became the General Secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) in 1982 and by the middle of the decade, he became increasingly seduced by the liberal fantasies peddled by western “educated” academics. His open flirtations with liberal social ideology proved too much to Deng and other social traditionalists and he was removed from power in favour of Zhao Ziyang in 1987.
When Hu died in 1989, subversive western orchestrated “protests” among “students” and their academic masters began to foment with Tiananmen Square being a focal point. Rather than put a quick end to the numerically small displays, Zhao Ziyang instead offered sympathy to many of the “protesters”.
Zhao was in many ways one part traitor and one part naive. A man of great experience and with a deeply important political position such as Zhao should have been aware, as others including Deng were, that the “protests” were neither genuine nor spontaneous. He should have realised that the “protests” were an attempt to overthrow the very institutions of the state, paving the way for a pro-western regime. To deny this, as he did, was a sign of both carelessness and a dereliction of duty.
Part of Zhao however did likely feel for the fact that young useful idiots of a western plot essentially volunteered themselves to be on the front line of a proxy war. However, his interventions proved totally insufficient and even had the effect of encouraging the conspirators.
The western orchestrators of the “protests” coordinated them to coincide with the official state visit of Mikhail Gorbachev. A visit which heralded the reconciliation between the two great Communist superpowers, instead became an attempt by the west to embarrass both China and the USSR in the same place and at the same time.
Zhao was finally removed from power in 1989 as China sent out the People’s Liberation Army to cleanse the streets of the western agents and restore order.
The vast majority of the Chinese population was unaffected by the events of 1989, but the ruling elite realised that they needed to take precautions to avoid such western meddling in the future.
China rapidly recovered because of the ultimately decisive action the government took in putting an end to the “protests” and as a result, China is the unshakeable powerhouse that it is today.
Therefore, with the example of China in the 1980s and Turkey in very recent years in mind, Duterte is self-evidently exercising extreme flexibility and tolerance towards his critics, all of whom have dealt with normal judges and police rather than specific emergency or martial tribunals. Furthermore, while in many cases it is far too dangerous to allow for seditious or even obstructionist elements to continue and agitate in public at a time of acute national crisis, Duterte clearly remains quietly confident that he does not need to resort to the kind of “dictatorial” tactics that he is ironically accused of already using.
In reality, if Duterte was the “dictator” that many of his detractors like to pretend that he is, one would not be hearing the words of Trillanes, Robredo, de Lima, corrupt clergy or anyone else in the red-yellow axis currently aiming at destabilising rule of law in The Philippines. Instead all that would be coming out of The Philippines would be unverified hearsay and conjecture. In this sense, perhaps Duterte is all the wiser for letting the severe stupidity of his opponents speak for itself in the light of day. By contrast, forcibly shutting them up might lead some in the wider world to suspect that the likes of Trillanes, de Lima et. al. are far more intelligent than they actually are. In this sense the “heroic resistance” of Duterte’s opponents is not only anti-climactic but is in fact rather comical due to the sheer ill-informed underpinnings of the arguments that Trillanes and his comrades employ.
As indicated by his words that he would rather discuss matters with would be anti-government traitors rather than engage in a brutal fight against fellow Filipinos, Duterte is confident that his own soundness of mind and the consistency of his supporters will make it so that the disgruntled and largely self-appointed opposition never get the one thing they want: an open and violent conflict.
In this sense, Duterte has taken the path of peaceful populism above that of a “final showdown” with his opponents. The Philippine President clearly does not feel they are worth the time or effort to break a sweat while his supporters who constitute the vast majority of the nation’s population are not even prepared to give them the time of day.
Duterte’s best offensive is ironically having no defence other than his record. When it comes to discrediting his opponents, at this stage in the political game, they are doing the job themselves.