A telling statement

President Rodrigo Duterte 080816was made by President Duterte recently: “if I reach six years, you’re all dead” with reference to his perceived enemies (link). Sounds like a zero-sum player, and one of the most extreme kind it could be. He mentions that he is not new to “these kinds of intrigue in office, starting with his more than two decades as Davao City mayor”. This attitude could indeed be typical for the no-holds barred South, where the Ampatuan massacre killed an entire “enemy” entourage pre-election years ago. The phrase “Don’t scare me, you people from Manila” also falls within that interview and is telling.

Warlords dominated provincial politics after the United States left in 1946. The book “An Anarchy of Families” by Prof. Alfred McCoy mentions a few. Aguinaldo also was a bit of a warlord, although he denied any involvement in the killing of Heneral Luna by his own praetorians, the Kawit Brigade, it is historically documented that Aguinaldo’s mother looked out of the window and said “nagalaw pa ba iyan” in Cabanatuan – “is he still moving” – after the Kawit Brigade overkilled the heroic General. Marcos’ dictatorship, now well-documented, could be called centralized warlordism.

Some civic society developed after 1986, but it remained on shaky ground. Impunity continued to reign, the further away from the control of the state the more. Rebel groups that turned to extortion and kidnapping controlled pockets of the country. Stories of local government officials having alleged criminals summarily executed abound in the last 30 years. All of this – the product of a tribal culture overlayed with a formally legal and democratic state. Other countries developed states and cultures out of tribal and warlord configurations over hundreds of years of history. The Philippines didn’t.

Formally and rationally – he IS a lawyer after all – President Duterte knows the mechanisms of the Philippine State. From the gut, instinctively, the warlord mentality seems to comes out way too often. Where his heart is, I do not dare speculate on. Only a minority of Filipinos, I think, truly appreciates what a modern state is all about. And how, if it never was part of the reality of so many? If it was, it was just about government offices and courts, speaking a language most did not get, often acting haughty and inflexible – Duterte simplified some things there, part of his mass appeal.

The elites of the country are mostly in shock, as they lived in a world of their own for too long, denying the festering troubles of a society grown ever more apart (link). The anger at the old system was evident during the pork barrel scandal, then during Mamasapano – even if it was misdirected against a President who was trying to fix a difficult system within its parameters. Now there is a President who apparently de facto rejects the defined formal parameters. Will the country manage to redefine its system, improve it long-term, or fall into total chaos? I wonder. Time will tell.

Irineo B. R. Salazar, München, 16. October 2016


6 thoughts on “A telling statement

  1. http://news.abs-cbn.com/video/news/10/25/16/duterte-im-like-a-hoodlum-you-only-realized-that-now

    President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday came out swinging at a meeting with the Filipino community in Japan, saying he wasn’t afraid of some opinion that he is not like a statesman.

    “Sabi nila Duterte is not a statesman, he behaves like a hoodlum. Tama ka. Ulol ka pala, ngayon mo lang nalaman?” Duterte told Filipinos at a gathering in Tokyo, where he is slated to stay for a three-day visit.

    (They say Duterte is not a statesman, he behaves like a hoodlum. You’re right. You only realized that now?)

    The President was reacting to criticisms regarding his fiery outbursts and aggressive campaign against illegal drugs.

    The Filipinos in the audience were quite receptive and cheered for the President at several points in his speech.

  2. https://www.facebook.com/vicente.rafael1/posts/10157549158325328 – by Vicente Rafael, 24 October 2016

    I’ve lately been thinking about the history of death squads and vigilantism (the two are often related) in the Philippines. What follows are some very preliminary notes.

    They both clearly have colonial roots. As far back as the 16thc., the ‘polos y servicios’ imposed by the Spaniards forced native peoples to join colonial militias to put down local rebellions and the occasional intra-imperialist war (vs. the Dutch in the 17th, the British in the 18th, even the Americans in the late 19th). By the 19thc, native militias became more organized into the ruthless Guardias Civiles, the very same ones that bedevilled ilustrados and common people alike, chasing Ibarra and killing Elias down the Pasig river in the climactic scene of Rizal’s “Noli.”

    When the Americans invaded the Philippines, the US troops were made up of volunteers recruited from their respective state militias, and given to using the tactics of “injun warfare” adopted by their officers–all veterans of genocidal Indian Wars in the US. One could argue that American soldiers were a collection of death squads, given to pursuing near-exterminatory violence against Filipino fighters and civilians alike. As with the Spaniards, American troops also used native auxiliaries to put down the Revolution and the various local insurgencies it spawned.

    Elections were held quickly to consolidate American rule, at the same time that the colonial government was recruiting Filipinos to pursue remaining rebels. They formed the Philippine Scouts, forerunner of the Philippine Constabulary as the complement to the First Philippine Assembly. Colonial democracy was predicated on the outsourcing of the state’s coercive power to local officials–many veterans of the Revolution–and their local followers. This is not so strange since the armies of the First Philippine Republic at Malolos were also made up of volunteers attached primarily to their local leaders rather than to a national leadership (much to the dismay of Mabini and Aguinaldo who were powerless to curtail the pillaging and plundering of fighters). Patronage and patriotism were indissociable in the case of the Republican army and continued through the US colonial period.

    During World War II, guerilla resistance spread, with lots of armed groups operating outside of and in opposition to Japanese state power, dispensing their own brand of justice against collaborators and often warring against rival factions. After the war, some of these armed groups like the Huks, continued fighting against the injustices they experienced, while other guerillas were recruited into private armies of the restored oligarchy. The post-war period witnessed the mushrooming of armed bands organized around local warlords, urban gangs, and assorted paramilitary units working for public officials and wealthy private families, who were usually one and the same. In the midst of the Cold War, the Philippines became a veritable laboratory for “low intensity warfare” that the CIA would wage in Latin America and elsewhere.

    When Marcos declared Martial Law, he sought to do away with such private armies by turning the entire AFP into his own big private army. But corruption and favoritism ended up dividing the military (hence, the emergence of RAM, leading to the failed coup attempt that then gave birth to EDSA). Meanwhile, the armed might of the CPP-NPA grew and by the end of Marcos’s regime, they controlled more than 20% of the countryside and had an extensive network of above-ground organizations in the cities. And the Moro rebels had also grown in power so as to outstrip the AFP’s abilities to put them down repeatedly. Fighting a two-front war and divided within its ranks, the military’s strength was severely taxed.

    In the wake of EDSA, Cory Aquino at first sought to negotiate with the CPP-NPA. But a year after EDSA and a month after the Mendiola massacre, negotiations broke down. She then declared all-out war. In the face of a weakened military and a far more formidable communist insurgency, she and her chief of staff, Fidel Ramos, found themselves eventually authorizing and publicly supporting the rise of vigilante groups that quickly became anti-communist death squads. In the areas where the communists were strong, para-military volunteers flourished, drawn mostly from lumpen proletariats and former rebels. They were usually attached to local police and military commanders, and/or to local oligarchies, receiving funding and protection from them (and indirectly from the US to the extent that it was providing massive aid to the AFP). The most notorious of course was the Alsa Masa in Davao City that emerged in the late 1980s through the early 1990s, at the time when Rodrigo Duterte was mayor.

    So the irony of death squads. Rooted in colonial history, their current formation can be traced back to the transition from Marcos to Aquino, that is, from the end of authoritarian rule to the restoration of cacique democracy. Where Marcos could turn to the AFP as his own death squad, the post-EDSA oligarchy needed the aid of civilian volunteers, organized with the help of the police and the military into anti-communist vigilantes. As some scholars have pointed out, these vigilante death squads were the other side, the dark side if you will, of People Power. Indeed, that is how Cory herself referred to them when she encouraged them to wage war against the communists.

    People Power was originally directed at Marcos. And when he was gone, it was directed at the communists. Terror and gruesome displays of violence–severed heads, for example, displayed on roadways, along with mutilated corpses–was the signature of groups like Alsa Masa. Duterte, as is well known, made his reputation by taming both vigilantes and communists. If various reports are to be believed, he, or at least those around him, recruited former NPAs and other lumpen types to serve as para-military forces in dealing with a new enemy: drug lords and drug users. His emergence into local prominence as mayor of Davao occurred at the crossroads of democratic transition and counter-insurgency, when “People Power” was taken to mean that ordinary people would be empowered to act on behalf of the state and kill its designated enemies. In a way, death squads are the perverse doubles of NGOs as both share a parallel history.

    Things have thus come full circle. Death squads encouraged by Cory as a much-needed supplement to the military’s counter-insurgency war have now morphed into the death squads used by Duterte in his war against drugs. Rather than a new development, death squads, vigilantes, para-military volunteers of all sorts have long been a part of the colonial and national state. As with other modern states, the Philippine state has pursued what seems like a contradictory course: it has simultaneously sought to monopolize the use of violence even as it outsources it, using uncivil means to secure civil society. The legal and the illegal constantly blur into one other, as the language of the president often sounds like the rhetoric of a gangster. Indeed, the police double as vigilantes, while convicted felons ally with government officials to silence the latter’s critics. Extra-judicial killings, seen as a remedy to the inefficient and corrupt legal system, normalize murder even as it foregrounds fear as a primary technique of governing. Public resources are used to forge private armies–a kind of PPP, or public-private-parternship for producing the infrastructures that deliver the death of social enemies.

    This leaves us with one more question: why has the use of death squads today met with popular approval, or at least acquiescence?

    I’m not sure, but let me take a stab. I think it might have something to do with the way the economy of violence in death squads resonates with the economy of citizenship in the country today. What do I mean by this? That those who join death squads are essentially contractual laborers. They can be hired and fired for as short or as long as their employers need them. They occupy a very precarious existence, and are liable to be killed themselves. In short, they are like so many millions of Filipinos today, working on contractual basis, whether at home or abroad.

    Just as the political history of death squads is the “underside” of People Power, especially outside of Metro Manila, its political economy of violence seems to echo the normalized violence faced by workers today. However, I’m still not sure why and how this shared condition between vigilantes and citizens should translate into popular approval of Duterte, the biggest patron of death squads. I’m still working on that. Any ideas?
    [I’m indebted for these reflections to the works of several folks, to name a few: Al McCoy, Michael Cullinane, Eve Lotta Hedman, John Sidel, Patricio Abinales, Donna Amoroso, Ben Anderson, Greg Bankoff, Roseanne Rutten, Rico Jose, Mila Guerrero, and many others. Of course, I alone am responsible for all errors of fact and interpretation].

  3. Rody Duterte tells statements Filipinos can understand because Filipinos tells stories just Duterte. Only those pseudo-intellectuals from pseudo-columnists and pseudo-journalists are aghast what Duterte has to tell as if they do not say statements that Rody Duterte tells.

    In bisaya it is called pa-as-if as-if. Meaning these pseudo-intellectuals are just pretending to be intellectuals but they are not really because if they were intellectuals they would have answered me by now why last-remaining Spanish colonists and descendants of Lima Hong are never embarassed, shamed and vilified by a mere drop of gossips so does reliance of witnesses and affidavits as their evidences.

  4. From the Inquirer article of October 15:

    Don’t scare me, you people from Manila with your plan to hold a rally next year and remove me from office. Because if I go, that is part of my destiny. That is what it is so don’t come out in newspapers warning Dutere about a coup d’etat or others,” he said.

    “If I become President for just two months or two years, that is part of my destiny, what God gave me. So I just let them threaten me with launching a coup d’etat or people power, these sons of a…,” he said.

    “But if I reach six years, you’re all dead,” he added.

    Read more: http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/825486/duterte-tells-foes-god-made-me-president#ixzz4NFPJhFVa
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