AS HIS power space get smaller everyday leading to zero power in less than year, President Duterte is feeling what it feels like when everything and everybody seems to slink away, slowly but surely. The period can be a merciless punctuation. The ebbing could only mean the emptying of what was once full and overflowing.
So, what’s the best hedge for a fading dictator?
“As he discovered in the course of the unaccountable years,” so Gabriel Garcia Marques wrote of his ‘vida’ or ‘contra vida’ in “ The Autumn of the Patriarch”, that a lie is more comfortable than doubt, more useful than love and more lasting than truth.”
That’s only partly true. A lie doesn’t last; truth does. But dictators, anywhere, east or west, prefer lie, because they want it to last. Donald Trump and his followers in the United States believe, or appear to believe, that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from them by the Democrats. This, notwithstanding the verifiable facts.
Duterte is making a yarn the whole nine yards in the run-up to the 2022 presidential race where he wants his voice to be heard. In his latest presidential, or unpresidential, tsismis, he subtly outed a presidential aspirant who is allegedly a weak leader, among other things. He didn’t name who, but the allusion was so unmistakable; it couldn’t have been other than Bongbong Marcos.
And then, of course, the antiquarian saying: it takes one to know one. Duterte should know whereof he speaks.
A few days ago, the crew of a Chinese ship fired water cannons on a hapless Philippine boat on a mission to supply Filipino soldiers manning a grounded ship in the West Philippines Sea. It has been there for a long time as a puny but determined symbol of asserting Philippine sovereignty in the sea from shining sea that China is making a dubious claim on.
Duterte could only have encouraged the Chinese’ brazen boldness. He said he was not willing to fight a war with China over it. He said he was inutile. He praised Chinese Xi Jingping for his kindness. He said the award won by the Philippines from the Arbitral Tribunal as to who owns the South China Sea was just a piece of, well, scrap.
That should explain China’s expansive, invasive actions in the South China Sea like it’s nobody’s business. Or, for China use only. You have a president like that, who needs enemies Paraphrasing Pogo, we have met the enemy and he lives by the Pasig River.
Bongbong, in accordance with Duterte’s dimunitive view, hasn’t spoken on the subject. He was also seen in a tete-a-tete with Chinese diplomats days before the water cannon assault was made. No connection, to be sure. But Bongbong’s inert style appears to validate Digong’s verbal shot.
Again, look who’s talking. Ever since the Senate blue ribbon committee headed by Sen. Richard Gordon has uncovered dubious transactions between the Philippine government and a small-time Chinese-owned medical supplier, Duterte has relentlessly thrown fire and brimstone to those eager to ferret out the truth.
There can only be one explanation: lie is the enemy of truth. If Gordon and company are on the side of truth, who do you think is on the opposite side. No rocket scientist needed to identify forensic evidence on the crime. Now, that’s not only weak leadership, that’s criminal leadership.
And the cowardly downgrade of a once and future benefactor goes on, according to the gospel of a small- a town despot. He is or was spoiled brat. He is into cocaine. (Hush, he does it in a private yacht or somewhere private). He belongs to the rich and (in)famous. But, thank heavens, he is unlike his father. Remember martial law?
There are two take- aways on the cocaine- use tattle: 1) his so-called war against drug was a dismal failure because he failed to catch the biggest fish of them all using prohibited substance hiding in plain sight. 2) The poor were guilty of the crime; the rich were off the hook.
At one time or another, Duterte thumbed up Bongbong as rightful vice president. He doesn’t believe this time, the son of the dictator is fit to have his father’s old post. The reason is obvious: he apparently wants Sen. Bong Go, the forever loyal gofer, to be his successor. Are there strong signals from Beijing that it’s their choice, too, among others? There was an unconfirmed report by a former dilawan Cabinet member that China will interfere in the 2022 presidential polls.
The idea looks like, the more confused (deceived) the Pinoy voters are, the better. The latest word on this strategy favors deception. According to a research group, most Filipinos are susceptible, not just vulnerable, to disinformation (lie), relying more on their usual source, the social media, and less on mainstream media.
Or, Digong’s trouble may be a function of his age, or aging.
“As one gets older, the more voices you get in the back of your head,” Robert Jackson Bennet said. Take a close look at who’s nearest to Duterte on his late night show.
Could the soon-to-be former president be hearing more voices now, apart from those of his Cabinet?
The story goes that Abraham Lincoln once went with his wife Mary to a séance after the death of their son to inquire of him. The joke afterwards was that Lincoln heard several spirits presenting contradictory messages, just as his Cabinet members did.
In Duterte’s Cabinet, there is only one voice heard though. The rest is mere commentary or interpretation from his official séances, aka presidential spokesmen. It’s no less confusing, judging by his latest put down on a presidential aspirant.
But there is a redemptive moral on the Digong’s yarn: choosing the lesser evil, is choosing evil still. Fortunately, there’s an alternative. Did I hear anybody say ‘pink’?