Former Akbayan House Representative Walden Bello was, of course, right when he said that “The burden of proof, in short, is on us to prove Duterte wrong.” He was referring to those who take issue with former Davao City mayor and now presidential candidate Rodrigo Duterte’s defiant stand if he is elected president to continue the tradition he started in his city of combatting rampant criminality even if it involves means outside the framework of the law.
Whilst many Filipinos may think Duterte’s alleged track record of vigilantism which he has baldly planned to continue into his presidency is an affront to human rights, the Philippines, to be fair, has so far failed to live up to those ideals. And this is why Duterte’s rhetoric resonates powerfully with Filipino voters today. He has successfully tapped into the collective frustration — and impatience — that has been welling up in Filipinos over the last several decades since 1986.
Following the “people power revolution” in that year, Filipinos were repeatedly promised a new, better, and just Philippines. That promise has repeatedly been broken since. And the straw that finally broke the proverbial camel’s back was, in all ironies, laid by none other than President Benigno Simeon ‘BS’ Aquino III whose administration was a virtual antithesis of everything his mother promised Filipinos when she ascended power in 1986. Under Aquino’s watch, a former president was arbitrarily imprisoned, a Chief Justice was impeached by a kangaroo court, plantation workers were massacred, a vast pork barrel scandal was uncovered but not dealt with decisively, and the national government conspired with a belligerent foreign government to carve out a chunk of Mindanao to be handed over to an Islamic terrorist group.
Still surprised that Filipinos have seriously considered a man like Duterte for the presidency? The reason these alleged human rights violations critics have been lobbing at Duterte seem to simply bounce off him is that nobody in the Philippines possesses the moral ascendancy to pontificate about “human rights”.
Indeed, Bello points out that the trouble with Filipinos is that we have for so long “complacently assumed there is a national consensus on” human rights and due process. Unfortunately, the rhetoric has so far not been matched by real results. It is that prolonged mismatched between the talk and the walk that has paved the way for the rise of Duterte.
[Duterte’s running for president] will also challenge us to prove to the people that the rule of law is not empty rhetoric; that our laws can, in fact, be used to prosecute and punish the criminals and the corrupt; and that the pursuit of law and justice is blind, meaning it is not perverted by double standards.
Well, that has never been more relevant than it is today. The two elephants in the room — the Maguindanao massacre that remains unresolved and the vast multi-billion-peso pork barrel scam that has been swept under the rug — are staring us in the face as if telling us, “here is your challenge Filipinos; right here, right now”.
If we truly detest the prospect of a Duterte presidency on grounds that he will, as president, disrespect “due process”, then the opportunity to prove that due process does yield results in the Philippines is right there in front of us. The fact that Duterte, today, commands a strong following is testament to the sad reality that Filipinos have so many times balked at stepping up to that challenge.
In that light, it is quite easy to conclude:
Filipinos deserve a Duterte presidency.