If Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte was a younger man operating in a political system that allowed for extensive periods as head of state or government, it would be conceivable that the Diehard Duterte Supporters (known as the DDS), could become a long term grassroots social movement for continued political reform and clean government, as articulated and implemented by the former Davao mayor turned popular President. And yet just as all good things must come to an end, DDS throughout The Philippines and among the wider OFW (overseas Filipino workers) community must understand that as Duterte has agreed to leave office when his only legally allowed term expires or even before – in order for the DDS movement to stay vibrant after 2022, it must embrace a new cause to support while continuing to back Rodrigo Duterte’s Presidency.
Far from being the “dictator” that his increasingly hysterical opponents accuse him of being, Rodrigo Duterte was always a people’s Mayor and now he is a true people’s president. Duterte has no apparent lust for power and continues to describe his own feelings about high political office to his constituents in a deeply candid and personal manner.
By global standards, Duterte is unique as a leader who shuns ornate titles, opulent lifestyles and personal grandiosity. Although he has been President for over two years, he has said that he still prefers to be called Mayor Duterte rather than President, while he has likewise said that titles like “first family” repulse him as they are “corny”. Beyond this, Duterte has encouraged his fellow Filipinos to break away from the colonial mentality of the past, to understand faith in a higher power as a matter of free conscience rather than institutional obedience and has offered his sincere hopes at both a political and personal level that future generations might live a better life than his own.
While this irrational fear grips people both in wealthy and developing countries, it seems that the weather a nation gets, the obsession with prolonging youth due to an unconscious and unreasonable fear of death tends to turn individuals into obsessive creatures detached from a more organic and enlightened view of life. From the United States to South Korea, plastic surgery is often a rich person’s way of pretending to fend off death by artificially making one’s self appear to be younger than one is. The amount of money spent of strange diets and medical products designed to artificially prolong youth is both an economic and social sickness in many wealthy nations.
One thing that Duterte has injected into every element of his public life is reason and rationality. Whether discussing how to handle his hysterical opponents or how to handle constitutional reforms, Duterte is often a voice of reason in a sea of hostility. Duterte spoke of death in the following way,
“We’re getting old. Me, they said I am dying, of course I will die someday. There’s no problem with that. Death should not worry anybody. It’s inevitable and it can happen any day so what is there to talk about”.
This is a statement that every person in the world should hear. From young children scared of the dark to an old person scared of the darkness of one’s final years, one should not romanticise death, fear it, nor artificially hasten its arrival. One ought to live a life of personal moderation guided by ethical pragmatism rather than the polar extremes of greed and narcissism or on the other hand the extremes of self-harm and overwrought nihilism.
Duterte’s ability to touch on personal issues from his position as President makes him unique among world leaders. While a good world leader can live an opulent lifestyle and not offer any personal council to his people, there remains something special and deeply endearing about a leader who goes out of his way to open minds, hearts and eyes to the broader truths of reality that can help to enlighten an entire nation.
This is why it is crucial for the DDS movement to accept that Duterte will not be in power forever and that at his age, he has more life behind him than in front of him. This is simply a fact, however much his supporters might wish the opposite to be true. It is because of this that the DDS owe it to Duterte himself and above to the nation, to make certain that Duterte’s reforms, his style of direct politics, his attention to the real concerns of the people, his non-aligned foreign policy, his emphasis on keeping the country safe from narcotics and terrorism and his pro-economic growth reforms not only continue but expand into the future.
There is no better way to ensure that ‘Duterteism’ outlasts the Duterte Presidency than by campaigning with vigour and determination for constitutional reforms that will see the end of the presidential system and the inauguration of a new federal-parliamentary system under the laws of a new pro-foreign investment and pro-trade constitution. This is the only realistic and beyond that, the best way to ensure that the DDS movement becomes more rather than less relevant after 2022.
A parliamentary system will end the maddening and confusing deadlock between separately elected legislative chambers, a vice president and a president and streamline the process by seeing a head of government (a prime minister) being drawn from whichever parliamentary party or coalition wins the most democratic votes in a straightforward election in which a single political movement produces a single political leader for the nation. The presidential system is tailor made for exploitation by those calming that they have a pseudo-divine right to rule the country, even after losing crucial elections. In a straightforward unicameral parliamentary system, there is no room for such time wasting and frankly anti-democratic ambiguity.
Parliamentary systems take personality largely out of the equation as parties campaign behind an ideas based manifesto. By contrast, in the current system, costly elections can be effectively stolen by wealthy candidates backed by a powerful political dynasty that can promote a single man or woman as a would-be “saviour of the nation”. In a modern nation, promoting ideas is deeply more civilised than promoting a single man and woman.
Furthermore, in parliamentary systems, leaders can serve for as long as they command the support of the parliamentary chamber while unpopular leaders can be removed at any time should they lose the support (aka the confidence) of parliament. Such no-confidence measures typically trigger new elections, thus creating the phenomenon of elections based on democratic need rather than based on a statutory date that is arbitrary rather than responsive.
Based on the popularity of Duterte’s reforms, if the 2022 election in The Philippines is conducted in a parliamentary system, any party which genuinely supports Duterte’s reform agenda would likely win in a landslide. By contrast, in an overpriced battle of personalities, such a thing is far less assured and what’s more is that the Yellows know this all too well.
Therefore, the only solution is to harness the energy, the social power, the public influence and the inspirational qualities of the DDS movement and to simultaneously turn it into a DPS movement. To carry on the DDS tradition, Duterte’s supporters must also become Diehard Parliamentary Supporters.