By Rigoberto Tiglao | The Manila Times
AFTER much contemplation and some study of Philippine history this past weekend, I have come to the conclusion that presidential candidate Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos, Jr. should be disqualified from running for president in the elections next year, as the "Pinklawans" and the Pulahans have demanded.
Never mind the idiotic reasons for their pleas. President Duterte should use all means of persuasion to have the Commission on Elections disqualify Bongbong.
The reason I am advocating this is simple and, I would think, beyond argumentation.
If Marcos is disqualified, there would be such outrage against it and so much political instability that Duterte can use this as an excuse to declare a "revolutionary government." After all, Corazon Aquino did so on March 25, 1986 and arrogated all state powers into herself by virtue, as her "Freedom Constitution" did, of "powers vested in her by the sovereign mandate of the people."
Duterte then could appoint Bongbong as deputy president, who would take on the reins of the revolutionary government in June next year.
Establishing a revolutionary government, passing a new constitution and installing a parliamentary system — to get rid of this troublesome bunch of 24 egomaniacs — has never been so "doable" as it is now, for the following reasons.
First, Duterte enjoys an amazing 80-percent approval rating, according to private but objective polls — not the 67 percent reported recently by the Social Weather Stations (SWS). But even if one believes the SWS report, its figure itself is remarkable since the economy contracted last year by 9 percent, a record low that beat even the percent contraction during the "perfect storm" in 1984 and 1985.
The contraction, of course, was due to the necessary shutdowns of much of our productive facilities to prevent the Covid-19 virus from spreading. But for whatever reason, Filipinos almost always blame the president: To this day, even so-called economists, for instance, blame Marcos for the 1984-1985 recession when it was due to the global debt crisis and the assassination of Benigno Aquino Jr. (Marcos and his technocrats had full grasp of the debt crisis that broke out in 1982: Would he have been so stupid as to order the assassination? Or did some other force calculate — correctly — that another development other than the debt crisis was needed to overthrow Marcos?)
Never have we had a president as popular as Duterte, in the way the masses have identified with him that many call him "Tatay." And if he appears likely to deliver peace and prosperity, Filipinos could give up that luxury of voting for a president every six years. Political liberty after all is a concept many countries in the world — China is the biggest example — say we should not mystify and accept the fact that it may not be necessary for the good of the many, at least for a period.
Second, Duterte can claim that never in our post-war history has such a devastating pandemic hit us and the world, so in order to put our economy on its course of recovery, an authoritarian government is needed to prevent politics form hindering an accelerated reform program.
Duterte can argue along the same lines as the much respected Dr. Gerardo Sicat, considered the father of economics in the country, who pointed out in his 2014 book (Cesar Virata: Life and Times): "[Marcos] martial law redefined the political environment in which the country did its business. The personal and political liberty of those who contested the nation's politics and who opposed Marcos and the government suffered. On the other hand, it made more reform possible. The government could advance its pursuit of national security and development."
Third, Rappler and Maria Ressa, and other US-funded local media have smeared the country's and Duterte's reputation so badly that it has hit rock-bottom. Ressa was given the Nobel Peace Prize only because she portrayed herself as the poor victim of a country that she says is under a de facto dictatorship. Duterte's declaration of a revolutionary government would be just ho-hum news to America and the West, thanks to the likes of Ressa.
Fourth, the United States is so embroiled in so many local and international crises that its intervention in Philippine affairs would be weak. With the US now extremely worried over China — the thesis of a recent essay in the Atlantic magazine is that China will strike sooner than later, first by occupying Taiwan — it would choose to acquiesce to a Duterte revolutionary government over his termination of the so-called Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement entered into by the Aquino government in 2014. That agreement, in reality, allows the US to use five Philippine military camps as its forward bases in Asia in case of a conflict — with China, that is.
In 1986 when it intervened in Philippine affairs by engineering Marcos' fall, the US was the unchallenged hegemon in the world. The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) had started to crumble at that time to finally implode in 1991 while China was almost totally focused on building its economy in order to lift over 800 million of its citizens out of poverty.
Now, Russia has become even more economically and militarily powerful than the USSR it had created. China, the latest US Defense Department annual report to Congress all but admitted, will be achieving military parity with the US in a few years with a bigger nuclear arsenal bigger than and new weapons Americans don't have such as hypersonic ballistic missiles.
And the game of superpowers is not to allow a rival superpower from forcing its will on another country. China and Russia will block any US move to topple a Duterte revolutionary government.
Fifth, never has a Philippine president enjoyed the support of the military and the police, which after all determines whether a one-man or one-party rule is established. Duterte's popularity is due to several factors, among them the hefty increases in the salaries of uniformed personnel, his appointment of retired generals and admirals to key positions in government, which has endeared him to those still in service and his success in providing the military with advanced equipment — why, even US attack helicopters.
Most importantly, he has succeeded in convincing the military of his deep sympathy for them. No president has visited wounded soldiers recuperating in hospitals and attended the wake of those killed in action as much as Duterte has.
And sixth, never has there been opposition as weak and most probably as cowardly as we have now. When Marcos imposed martial law in 1972, the opposition had titans as senators such as Benigno Aquino Jr., Jovito Salonga, Jose Diokno, Gerardo Roxas, Sergio Osmeña Jr., Eva Estrada Kalaw and Ramon Mitra. Now we have pygmies, crybabies as opposition leaders. In 1972, powerful oligarchs — the Lopezes and the Osmeñas — vowed to fight Marcos to the end. Now, nearly all oligarchs seem to support him. For all their blah-blah, the opposition now and even the aboveground Reds, will quickly flee abroad at the first signs of a revolutionary government being planned.
Disqualify Bongbong? Duterte must have grinned and whispered, "Make my day!"