President Rodrigo Duterte’s admission that he’s a dictator, and his obvious pride in that fact, were premised on at least three assumptions.
The first is that his dictatorship has achieved something praiseworthy and beneficial to this country and its people.
The Marcos terror regime may have been overthrown 31 years ago, the institutions of liberal democracy restored, and a new Constitution drafted. But the threat of dictatorship has never really passed.
The conditions that made the making of a tyrannical regime possible in 1972 are still in evidence. Among them are a lawless and self-aggrandizing political class afflicted with the authoritarian virus; an unreformed police and military establishment that is similarly impaired; and those sectors of the population impatient with the inefficiencies of what passes for democratic governance and who imagine one-man rule to be the cure-all for the country’s ills.
Never mind the 2017 Duterte State of the Nation Address, which was replete with profanities, self-serving claims of current and future progress on various fronts, among them the regime’s brutal and failing war on drugs, and justifications for the use of unaccountable State violence. Take his so-called assurance that he won’t place the entire country under martial law with a reasonable amount of skepticism. All SONAs are after all political and since Commonwealth days have served the ends of every Philippine regime without exception.
The Libingan ng mga Bayani is not, as it name suggests, literally a heroes’ cemetery. Soldiers, policemen, and former Philippine presidents can be buried there, apparently on the tenuous presumption that by having worn a police or military uniform, or being elected to the Philippine presidency, an individual becomes a hero — meaning an exemplar of humanity, and worthy of emulation for, presumably, having risen above the limits of personal, familial and class interests in behalf of country and people.
Most dictionaries define heroes and heroism in less socially redeeming terms. A hero, says the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, is “a man admired for his achievements and noble qualities,” or “a mythological or legendary figure often of divine descent endowed with great strength or ability.”
In a performance that would have done his father proud, Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. managed to apologize and not apologize at the same time during a television interview last week (August 26).
Marcos Jr. was asked if he was going to apologize for martial law — that period in Philippine recent history, the length of which is still in dispute to this day. (Martial law officially ended in 1981, but in testimony to his own cunning, Ferdinand Marcos retained his authoritarian powers until he was overthrown in 1986.)