President Rodrigo Duterte should learn from his idol and self-confessed mentor, former president Ferdinand Marcos senior. During the first few years of his reign as the Philippines’ supreme leader, Marcos enjoyed tremendous public support. When he declared martial rule, people did not bulged. For five long years, Marcos cruised his path with wide public support. It was only when news about his alleged sickness which he hid from the public came out, and numerous elections which Marcos rigged in his favor, did his public ratings went down South. When rumors about Marcos’ family committing indescribable crimes against people did he finally fell from power. Marcos was a victim of vicious rumors. And so did former president Estrada who portrayed as a “tough politician” and exhibited “pseudo dictatorial” powers only to fall when news about JInggoy’s dilliances and close Erap associates enjoying perks and privileges that destabilized the business environment.
Marcos never lost the public when he waged wars against the Communists and the Moro rebels. They were with him all the way probably because of the Republicanism of the Filipino and his Islamaphobia. Hatred against Moros is ingrained within the Filipino consciousness probably due to centuries-old rumors of Moro raids against Christian communities. There are bigots and racists amongst Filipinos, and Marcos knew this and used this as justification for his wars. .Never mind if he and his minions committed numerous human rights abuses. Never mind if whole communities are razed to the ground. And never mind if entire generations of Moros are wiped out. Control over Mindanao was Marcos’ priority. Marcos successfully consolidated power in Mindanao at an astronomical cost.
Duterte is doing the very same way—and remarkedly, the very same goal. Most of the President’s financiers came from Mindanao and have interests in it. Most of Duterte’s financial supporters have mining interests and their investments run in the billions. For these people, and that includes Finance secretary Carlo Dominguez, insurgency lies at the core of the problem. Businesses are unable to grow in Mindanao due to its twin threats–the threats coming from Communism and the Bangsamoro insurgencies. These are institutional threats already, and worse, extreme Islamism even sprouted lately as a result of failed state and non-state interventions.
Meaning, Duterte is trying to end what is perceived as a permanent destabilising situation. Marcos tried using military intervention and failed. He relied on diplomacy and still failed. Duterte did what Marcos did and he’s paying for it. IN one of his speeches, Duterte admitted that the war is affecting public coffers. He should have thought about this much earlier.
AND THIS IS NOT THE ONLY ONE THAT Duterte copied from Marcos. Marcos told the public with a straight face that he is not sick, that his family is living in austerity, that the government is clean as a whistle and that everything is fine. Everyone knew back then that things were not well. When rhetoric from Marcos differed greatly from what people were experiencing in their respective homes, that was enough to jolt every single Filipino towards EDSA.
Accusations are rising about the alleged involvement of his son, Paolo, into smuggling. Silent yet as loud as a bell things being said about Duterte’s other son, Baste. Many of Duterte’s closest associates are now being accused of dipping their fingers into Private-Public Partnerships and infrastructure projects. These things are not being reported to the media yet, people are busy talking about them.
When nasty rumors turned into news, and people perceived them as true, then, things begin going South and when it does, it weakens the power center so much, it pushes the Hegemon to a precipice. This has been the lessons history has given us and undeniably, this is sure to happen even to a very popular president such as Duterte. Unless of course, Duterte changes tack and correct the errors he committed and being committed by his associates and closest kin. Admittedly, this is the chink in Duterte’s almost teflon-made armor.