Given our bitter experience these past three years, some people have asked me, where do we see ourselves, as a people and a nation, in the next three years under President Rodrigo Duterte’s leadership? Can we perhaps say, as British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said, that DU30 would like to make his country “the greatest place on earth” after Brexit?  Or will DU30’s crude experimentations turn the Philippines into a failed state? I can only express my hopes and my fears. 

DU30’s pivot to China, which has made him a close partner of Xi Jinping, is cited as a major reason why the Philippines’ immediate economic future is likely to be secure. Many believe this. But close observers of China’s political affairs are now beginning to worry that the current pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong could present real problems for Beijing, which it had previously avoided during the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre. If China implodes and fragments into several much smaller countries, we may have to write off the much-feared war between China and the United States. We may not have to worry about who will take the first missile shot.

I first heard this theory from a Taiwanese seatmate at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government a few years back, but no one is talking of such a scenario in the next three years. Without including China in this conversation, we have more than enough to worry about.  Most of DU30’s problems are self-made. We have seen the Constitution and the rule of law torn apart, as political whimsy replaced the legal order and the sovereign will of the electorate. There has been little government accountability to the people; the only accountability we have seen is the people’s to the government, or worse, to those in control of government.

The people’s personal liberties have shrunk while the powers of government, or those in control of government, have grown. Just as the glory of God is man fully alive, the glory of democracy is the citizen in the full possession and exercise of all his rights. But where is this citizen today?  He has disappeared from public view, replaced by a strongman who claims the right to pronounce judgment on all questions. The citizen has fallen silent out of fear, and the nation has been silenced by consensus.

Fear has driven adversarial political opinion into the shadows, and the nation’s political class to its grave. The political class, which had been dying slowly, met its final death when the administration took all the senatorial seats in the last elections without the ghost of a protest from the electorate. The last remnants of the opposition have since decided to play possum, instead of shouting fraud or threatening DU30 with Armageddon in the next big round. 

In Davao, the DU30 clan is now talking of fielding the President’s daughter, Davao City Mayor Sara DU30 Carpio for president, while her father is trying to discourage his own allies from dreaming of the office. In an unprovoked swipe at Alan Peter Cayetano whom he had earlier installed as Speaker, the head of the nation’s first political dynasty wondered aloud when the Taguig dynast would “end” his own political dynasty.  At the same time DU30 said Sen. Richard Gordon was a “fart away from disaster” after the latter, a ceaseless DU30 defender in the Senate, made a short constructive comment on the President’s ex-military Cabinet appointees.

It takes more than sincerity and courage to dialogue with DU30 on any subject. In the absence of a forthright opposition, the people will have to speak up. It is simply perverse for them to cheer the President’s most vulgar and execrable eruptions, pay obeisance to his brazen constitutional shortcuts and his venal usurpation of the powers of Congress and the Courts, and even the Magisterium of the Catholic Church. We, the people, will have to speak up if we want the rest of the world to treat us with respect. 

Until now, we have failed to educate DU30 on what is right and what is wrong. He has generously rewarded us with one-man rule. This cannot go on. We need not reach the point where, in the words of Albert Camus, in L’homme revolte, “even the slave must rebel.”

We must now wake up and rise from our deep slumber.