“Dutertismo” in focus: An academic discourse

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Two years as the President of the republic, Rodrigo Roa Duterte, known as the “Iron Fist of Davao” has gathered a large number of apologists who seem to have the exoteric hermeneutic power to interpret his statements.

Aside from the frequent cuss words spliced with the constant pronouncements that his regime will be bloody if corruption and drugs will not stop, and calling God “stupid,” it is still unimaginable that his flock thrives.

With the present situation of the Philippines, it is only appropriate to critically examine what happened, what is happening, and what could happen while we struggle under Duterte’s presidency.

Discourse is the only potent tool to explain to those who defend the President’s gospel of “change;” it is also alarming that Facebook and other social media are starting to be the resource for arguments, and the avenue of those who have taken The Hermeneutic Course on the Gospel of Duterte.

This is where the book, “A Duterte Reader: Critical Essays on Rodrigo Duterte’s Early Presidency,” comes into play; a well-researched, eloquently written, and a timely—untimely or timeless—anthology of essays by nineteen of the country’s writers and scholars discussing Duterte’s rise to power and the different facets of “Dutertismo.”

The book is spearheaded by Nicole Curato as the editor—a Filipino sociologist and research scholar who have published her works within and beyond the Philippines.

In the University of Canberra’s Centre for Deliberate Democracy and Global Governance, Nicole Curato holds the Discovery Early Career Research Award Fellowship which is funded by the Australian Research Council. Her works and interests are on deliberate democracy, contemporary social theory, fragile forms of political participation, and qualitative methods research.

A Duterte Reader, as Curato posits, hopes to contribute to the discussion about the rise of Dutertismo “by taking a step back to carefully examine the social conditions and historical processes that shape the trajectory of the Philippine democracy.”

Furthermore, what is exceptional about this book is the multiplicity of the perspectives and narratives which help the readers look at the topics and the status quo from different angles.

Likewise, the in-depth analysis of the reference/s by the writers is an assurance that being biased in the discourse is nonexistent, while it is necessary to take sides because silence is not an option after realizing that evil prevails whenever the good decides to take no part in it.

The article of the editor, “We Need to Talk about Rody,” vividly describes the President in the most justifiable manner, especially when she cited observable evidence about the President’s persona and self.

“Rodrigo Duterte–the ‘self-confessed mass murderer’ who vowed to kill thousands, an unapologetic womanizer who saw no wrong in making a rape joke about a dead Australian missionary, the ‘bastard child of the Philippine democracy’ whose popularity is built on his ‘dark charisma,’ the ‘dictator-in-waiting’ threatening to shut Congress down—was elected the President of the Republic of the Philippines in May 2016. He cursed the Pope, called President Obama the ‘son of a whore,’ and hailed Vladimir Putin as the paragon of leadership. He was called many names—Trump of the East, The Punisher, and Duterte Harry—all seemingly disparaging and exotic portrayals of the tropic island leader.”

Jessica Zafra viewed Duterte as “your walking, talking id.” In psychoanalysis, id “operates based on the pleasure principle” and contains the most hidden, repressed, and “asylumed” emotions of a person. This, according to some critics, gave the first President from Mindanao a head start during the election; for the first time the Filipino saw an unconventional matching of the Barong Tagalog with jeans and listened to curse words served from dusk—together with freshly brewed coffee, hot pan de sal, taho, puto at kutsinta, scrambled or sunny side up egg, fried rice with garlic, pancit canton, or a new chismis from the neighbor–‘til dawn. Forget not his promise that “it will be bloody” has been fulfilled just right after he assumed the presidency with the 24/7 news about the “nanlaban” against the Tokhang—not to mention the sworn statement by an alleged member of the Davao Death Squad during Duterte’s tenure as a City Mayor.

With the growing antinomies of Duterte’s ‘being and nothingness,’ the book boldly reveals his first irony as a government prosecutor who joined the anti-Marcos parliament of the streets, but verbose in his proclamation of praise about the greatness of Marcos—who, according to a 78 year old professor of the university where the mother of Duterte graduated from, is more preferable rather than the incumbent because he believed in God and have not committed a public blasphemy of the Almighty.

Before the Proposed Federal Constitution takes a step forward in to the plebiscite, if in any case it would reach that state, we need to delve deeply and meticulously into the country’s psyche and sociopolitical status. This is where A Duterte Reader is purposively situated, for it guides you to a thorough understanding—or at least give a Birdseye view—of what happened and what is happening in the Philippines. It likewise wishes to critically evaluate every move by the player on his board of pawns, rooks, knights, bishops, queen, and king.

Getting the book is no different from getting a “entertaining” and deconstructive analysis of the first few months of Duterte’s presidency including the psychological, geographical, sociopolitical, and maybe, philosophical underpinnings of his presidency.

You may ask about the use of the term “entertaining” and its appropriateness in this article. Let us be reminded of Aristotle’s famous statement that “It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.” Then, you shall also discover if his rise to power was really inevitable at this juncture.  Likewise, it is appropriate to confront the correlation—if there is such—of Dutertismo with Maoismo, Nasyonalismo, and American Imperialism. Furthermore, for the heart, the facts on the war on drugs might be unbearable at some point. Finally, the question is not only against “the Battle for EDSA People Power’s Memory” or “Who Will Burn Duterte’s Effigy?” but on what move are we all willing to take for the betterment of the nation.

A Duterte Reader is not only a resource for academic discourse, but more importantly, is an inspiration for the people to rise against a power which foreshadows a totalitarian state by thinking, writing, and getting involved. G



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