Rodrigo Duterte and a Serye
Illustration by Justine Patrice Bacareza, Eduard Jude Jamolin and Geralden Morre
This is a series following a country and a man.
The country is the Philippines, about 7,100 islands held together by a history of problems seemingly perpetual and definitely frustrating.
The man is Rodrigo Duterte, one citizen who once just led in a blooming city but is now leading in one of the most controversial elections in the country’s history.
This is a story aired on primetime, a serye where we all serve as the characters and the audience. This all starts with a dream.
The dream is Davao City, a place of disarray fixed by numerous reforms — an established emergency hotline, high-technology disaster response methods, improved hospitals and a city-wide curfew, among others — all done by the 22-year leadership of a prosecutor-turned-mayor.
What is most noticeable, however, are the stories of how this man has wiped out most of the criminality in the city. Many laud the streets of Davao City as peaceful, testified by the harmless experiences of people, residents and tourists alike, walking around the city, and certified by a survey dubbing the city as one of the safest in the world.
This man is Duterte. This man became our dream.
Yet we have been warned a lot of times.
With all the praise came a lot of scrutiny. The peace in the city has been attributed to a so-called death squad, a group aiming to eradicate even the littlest elements of crime one by one through the shot of a gun, a group Duterte has admitted to be connected to. With more than a thousand deaths recorded, he became a deadly target for vanguards of human rights, and a bloody apple to the eye of critics who dug for more faults, including the fact that the survey which gave the Safest City in the World title to Davao City wasn’t a highly credible survey, at all.
We have been warned a lot of times.
The signs were beginning to show, when he played with the people as he danced with affirmation and negation to answer requests of him running for the highest seat in the land, when he cursed the pope for the heavy traffic the latter had no fault to, when people called him protector of women’s rights while he proudly displayed his womanizing acts, while he finally affirmed running for the highest seat in the land for a reason so unforeseen.
There’s more to him that meets the eye, we said. He is not just his bad boy exterior, we said. He is the change he made in Davao City, the change he can also foster in the Philippines.
Okay, let us give him a chance.
However, more faults were dug and made it to the headlines. More red flags appeared, screaming for our attention. He saved hostages in Davao City and made a bad rape joke about one of them. He told neighboring countries who condemned the joke to “shut up” and threatened to sever their ties to our country. He said he will close down Congress if they do not cooperate with him. He expressed that he will let the son of a dictator take over him if he fails at his work, even while he campaigns for his running mate, who was another person.
We have been warned a lot of times.
Yet these were crucial times. When one name rises up in the flames in the midst of us choosing our next leaders, of times when we are looking for the right shoulder to lean on during the country’s troubled ages, we cannot help thinking of this idea of salvation.
We want a fresh start. We have gone through many leaders and have, in many ways, been failed by them. We have been looking too long for someone to save us and save us fast. We have been damsels in distress, always so close yet so far from redemption.
Finally, he is here, riding on a shining Harley-Davidson. Finally, our savior has arrived, and we have elected him to redeem our fallen selves.
Maybe he will. Maybe he will live up to his promise of a crime-free country after three to six months. Maybe he will ensure peace between us and the national rebels. Maybe he will give improvements to the country’s disaster response. Maybe he will settle foreign dispute. Maybe he will finally decentralize power and give other blooming cities and provinces a chance to prosper. Maybe he and his iron-clad leadership will patch up the things our previous leaders lacked.
Maybe he will prove us all right and wrong.
Maybe he will not.
No matter what happens, we cannot rely on one person to give a happy ending to this story. The progress of this nation is not a monologue, but a multi-character show. This nation will refuse to be saved if each one of its citizens does not act his role.
We are part of this story, too.
This is a series following a man and a country. The man is Rodrigo Duterte. The country is the Philippines.
This is an ongoing serye, and we still remain as the audience and the characters. We have yet to see how this is going to end.