No matter their official justification for being — whether “so the trains will run on time,” “to save the Republic and reform society,” or “to rid the country of crime and illegal drugs” — dictatorships are premised on the presumption that the dictator knows best and everyone else is ignorant and incompetent.
To Samuel Johnson (born 1709; died 1784), poet, essayist and author of A Dictionary of the English Language (published in April, 1755), do we owe the observation that “Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel.”
His biographer James Boswell (born 1740; died 1795) claimed that Johnson wasn’t condemning patriotism but how it was being misused by the unscrupulous to justify even the foulest of deeds. If that was indeed what Johnson meant, he was not not only being astutely observant about his times; he was also being prophetic. Scoundrels have indeed used patriotism, or love of country, to justify even the worst crimes.
With his — so far — 91 percent approval rating, President Rodrigo Duterte has the political capital and unprecedented opportunity to raise the knowledge and awareness of large numbers of Filipinos on those issues that for 70 years and through 11 administrations since the restoration of Philippine independence in 1946 have bedeviled this country. They include such fundamental questions as the roots of Philippine poverty and underdevelopment, and the causes of the rebellions and uprisings that have haunted and still trouble these islands.
Duterte’s golden opportunity to present a coherent analysis of these related issues was during his first State of the Nation Address (SONA) last July 25, during which the former candidate and elected president, whose campaign mantra was “Change is Coming,” could have attempted an answer to why the majority of Filipinos have remained poor despite economic growth, and how the armed social and political movements that have persisted in this country for over a hundred years are the result rather than the cause of underdevelopment. That analysis could then have proceeded to explain just how the new administration intends to address poverty as the core issue behind the support that carried Duterte to the presidency.