Author: Beatrice Cabral
An election is looming ever-closer, though it’s not the election that most Australians would concern themselves with. For most Australians, the election won’t hit until July 2. However, as a Filipio-born Australian, there is another election that haunts me.
Today, the 9th of May, the presidential race in the Philippines will end and someone will be elected as the new president of the Republic of the Philippines for the next 6 years.
Since the ‘People Power Revolution’ overthrew the Marcos dynasty and martial law in 1986, the Republic of the Philippines has taken a step forward. The people have made it clear that they want change. The people have made it clear that they want to end injustice, poverty and oppression.
Yet, it seems that we are taking two steps back. The front-runner of the race, Rodrigo Duterte, will more than likely be elected as the next president.
Never have I been more terrified for my homeland.
His election brings up startling possibilities that worry me to the extent that I feel the physical ache.
He has been labeled as the Philippines’ answer to Trump, and the label could not be more justified.
On the surface, he is a man that believes in zero tolerance for corruption and criminality. Despite this, he wants Marcos buried as a hero. He wants Gloria Arroyo (Former President) released from her sentence after she was arrested for electoral fraud and electoral sabotage. And he will more than likely win.
He makes grossly offensive and oppressive statements without thought or consideration. I cannot ever think well of a man who puts his own agenda ahead of the country or treats human life with so little dignity.
I cannot ever think well of a man who treats half of the population without due respect because they were born with vaginas. He’s made a joke about the gang-rape and murder of an Australian missionary, saying that he should have killed those men who gang-raped her because as the mayor he should have had her first. In the media storm surrounding this, his own daughter came out with her own story of rape, only to have him call her a drama queen.
More than once he has joked about and trivialised rape. Rape is not something to trivialise, it is gross act of human rights abuse, it is an act of war. For someone with his authority to joke about this is abhorrent. In the joking and trivialisation of rape, it legitimises the actions of rapist and makes perpetrators feel what they have done is acceptable. The person that leads the country is held up as an example to the rest of her citizens, for Duterte to say and do what he’s done without being sanctioned is appalling. It teaches the people that the abuse of women is acceptable, and even normal.
I cannot take his presidential campaign seriously for its lack of policy and concrete platform. Duterte’s campaign is all rhetoric, based on the promise that he will put a stop to crime and corruption within a 6 month time frame. No man is incorruptible, and there is nothing that corrupts more completely than absolute power. How can I trust him to be truthful and uncorrupt when there are even revelations about his undeclared wealth?
Furthermore, Duterte hinges his campaign on another impossible promise; the transformation of the political system from a unitary system into a federation. Yet, he makes no mention of how he will go about doing this. The transition of the Philippines from a republic to a federation would require hefty constitutional reform that the Philippines currently does not have the resources for. It would involve amendments to be brought forwards through the People’s Initiative, the Constitutional Convention or the Constituent Assembly and even after this, a national referendum is required.
These tasks are more than Herculean, they are impossible. It would be reckless and naive of me to put my faith in someone who promises only the impossible with no clear method of how to achieve it.
For all the stock Duterte puts into being tough on crime, he will excuse himself of any crime. He is no worse than the people he fervently condemns. The Davao Death Squad has murdered almost 1,500 people since its conception. Yet, Duterte has not hunted them down or condemned them. If anything, he allowed them to carry out their operations as they pleased. This is worrying. The Death Squad might have murdered criminals, but what happens to a country where vigilantism is praised? What happens if this is allowed to continue?
It seems nothing more than an invitation for anarchy.
Duterte cannot be trusted with the country on a national or an international level. He has said,
“Pag i-impeach ako, eh ‘di isara ko ‘yang Congress. Eh ‘di wala nang mag-impeach sa akin… Ako na ang congress, ako na ang presidente. Dictator ka talaga.”
This translates to “If I am impeached in my term, I will close congress. That way, it will be impossible to have me impeached… I will be the congress as well as being a president. I will be a dictator”. These were Duterte’s exact words. In order to save himself, he will willingly thrust the Philippines back into the void that they fought so hard to escape from and the veil of dictatorship will once again lower itself over the country.
Considering how hard the Filipino people fought to rid themselves of Martial Law under Marcos, they seem to welcome it back under Duterte.
Duterte cannot be trusted to protect the country on an international level. His policy is, first and foremost, an isolationist policy. When other countries, like Australia and the United States, criticised him, he responded with aggression with statements saying he was ready and willing to cut ties with both countries because the Philippines didn’t need them. These statements are nothing if not arrogant. With these statements, he sacrifices the diplomatic relations governments before him have tried to build and in turn he sacrifices the Philippine economy. Duterte might not see it, but the Philippines still needs support from first world countries in order to grow. If he cuts ties, what does this mean for the overseas Filipino workers? What does it mean for foreign investment that has previously funnelled money and jobs into the country?
What does Duterte being elected mean for the Philippines?
This is the main question because it has become the more-than-likely outcome… and the potential answers…they terrify me.