Duterte's giant wake-up kick

Inday Espina-Varona

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Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte has just delivered a kick powerful enough to send hands flying off our precious backsides.

Duterte's Social Weather Stations (SWS) lead – 38% to the 21% of erstwhile front-runner Sen. Grace Poe and Vice President Jejomar Binay – should send us scrambling.

“Us,” meaning those who believe painting Duterte as a homicidal maniac is the answer to his candidacy. “Us,” meaning those who scream over Duterte’s human rights abuses and are silent on the bloody hands of those who currently rule the nation.

“Us,” meaning those who practice the politics of expedience – going hammer and thongs when the enemy sins but playing blind, deaf and dumb when friends and patrons commit the same acts.

That’s most of us.

Duterte’s followers are wrong to believe legal short cuts are the answers to this country’s problems. That doesn't make them thugs. They're ordinary people acting on the basis of their experience and knowledge and groping for what they think is the answer.

Reading the SWS results, pundits asked, will Duterte’s cursing ways turn off people?

Good god, why should it? It’s not that Duterte’s people dislike the charismatic Pope Francis. But they see the Pope as too big, too strong and stable, to be affected by a vulgar remark.

We’re not getting it. This is about the desire to Be-Duterte. He represents a vicarious thrill for people without the clout to curse officials in public. You think they aren’t cursing in their homes? They’re cursing in social media; they’ve been cursing for years. They know the powerful move only when forced against a wall. And so they’re getting behind Duterte, right or wrong.

We get our cues from life experience and from our perceived leaders/heroes. Being-Duterte is a perverse aspiration. But we live in a perverse world.

So many crime victims abandon their quest for justice because the so-called pillars of justice are bent every which way. So many weep as abusers go free. Being-Duterte is all about the ability to go after scalawags and knock their heads together – or shoot their heads off.

It’s wrong. But so is setting free one of the principal accused in the Maguindanao massacre – who’s now running for office. So is welcoming datu accused of murder into Camp Aguinaldo and the House of Representatives, where they proceed to lecture on when it’s okay to kill.

Who's talking about these statistics?

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Graphic by human rights group Karapatan
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Graphic by human rights group Karapatan

On the opposite site, many families see the powerful waltz away from accountability while their kin languish in jail for years, sometimes longer than the prescribed punishment for the crimes they’re accused of.

Law enforcers or leaders of the land quickly absolve their friends and patrons even as they take shortcuts against their enemies.

Agriculture Secretary Prospero Alcala? Untouchable. Bong Naguit of Pagcor? Untouchable. Security guard Rolly Panesa was tortured and jailed for being a rebel leader, despite a barrage of witnesses providing correct identification; never got an apology.

What did it take for the President to understand SUSPENDED when it came to good friend Alan Purisima? It took Mamasapano; the death of 44 elite cops, 13 Muslims and his own peace legacy.

Even those of us who have never experienced crime up close and personal know that corruption has great rewards in this country. See PDAF and DAP and the many, many friends of the powerful who aren’t in jail. That’s how you turn “focus” and “continuity” into dirty words.

On Twitter, Tsukuru Tazaki @biboyped asked, “Will Duterte change the cycle or will he be swallowed by it? How strong is he?

Dean Bocobo @SagadaSun answered with more questions: “Well, WHAT exactly makes you think DUTERTE is gonna be any different? He can't win without P3B. Who's gonna back him?”

Duterte isn’t the answer. He won’t break that cycle. He presents enough outsider traits to make people hope he will. He and his people display the same tendencies that fuel the cycle, the very same only-bad-people--need-to-fear line that President Benigno Aquino and his allies like to peddle.

What we should be asking is, “What will break the cycle?”

Former journalist and human rights worker Carlos Conde says it best: Provide an alternative; eliminate Duterte’s reason for being.

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The way to defeat Duterte is to take away his reason for being, says former journalist and human rights worker, Carlos Conde.

Many people are doing what Conde prescribes. Hardly any is running for national office.

Most politicians are too busy and too ambitious to think about thorny, convoluted issues like justice. They’re focused, even now, on organizing operators for social media, on hocuspcosing or on getting rivals disqualified. Again, the short cut. The rest of us bleat like sheep. We echo our bets’ rationalization. We buy and even endorse their dirty tricks.

You don't like Duterte? You can stop him only if you muster the guts to knock some sense into your bets.

In this country, leaders don’t lead.