READ: “My Discomfort With Duterte: I Cannot Be Bothered To Beg Someone To Be My President”

Davao Mayor Rodrigo Duterte has recently announced that he is running for President. This big announcement has produced mixed reactions online. One netizen, Sharmila Parmanand, posts about her thoughts on the Duterte candidacy. Read:

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The whole text reads:

Here’s my discomfort with Duterte and the discourse around a Duterte presidency: 

Duterte’s image feeds into the Messiah mindset that I think is harmful for our political culture. It pins progress on an all-knowing macho savior who will cut through the red tape to bust crime and create prosperity for everyone.

I agree that there is inefficiency and corruption in our political system. I also agree that heavy-handed tactics against crime can lead to deterrence (at least in the short-term). But I don’t think this ‘discipline’ is sustainable and it comes with far more risks.

Whether we like it or not, effective governance requires strengthening political institutions, not circumventing them – even if the end goals are benevolent. If justice emanates from fear of one man and his extensions (presumably the police and the military), what happens when that man is gone? Even if we believe the man himself to be benevolent, what about the enforcers under him?

While reforming institutions and engaging with democratic processes is less glamorous and sexy than extrajudicially smacking down criminals, it’s robust governance systems that leave a lasting impact. 

Next, it’s one thing for a marginalized group to act outside the law because legal tools are inaccessible to them, but it’s another when a wannabe President proudly proclaims their willingness to disregard human rights laws. The President will have access to resources, legislative support, the full apparatus of the state. There’s no excuse to not work within the rules. 

Incidentally, Duterte disagrees with Poe’s supposed violation of the constitutional citizenship requirement, but doesn’t seem to think much of human rights protections also enshrined in the constitution. Where does he draw the line when it comes to being bound by the law? What if activists disagreed with his punitive approach to drugs because there is evidence that suggests a public health approach works? What if there are complaints against police brutality?

Finally, I cannot be bothered to beg someone to be my President. It’s mildly offensive how he has been framed as a great leader who has made the supreme sacrifice of agreeing to be President. There’s a difference between a candidate who says, “I don’t know if I am good enough for this job” and one who basically says, “I’m too good for it and you people are not ready for me”. The first is humility, the second is arrogance. 

There are feudal overtones to this discourse – an infantilized electorate being saved by a hero to whom we are indebted. I don’t need saving – I need someone who is willing to make a case for why they deserve power over me and who is willing to accept they will be accountable to the people.

* Not saying the other candidates are great either. At this rate, I haven’t discounted anyone.

Do you agree with what she’s saying?


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