Why Duterte’s Pragmatism is Better Suited for the Philippines
A Philippine Daily Inquirer columnist once raised this question on his column, “Why is it that of all the trainings of good governance taught to many country’s leaders we still ended-up having only a handful of exemplary leaders such as Jessie Robredo?”
The short answer to this question is simple: when humanism is the underlying principle of political structure for a certain nation whose level of political maturity is very low, the result would always be not unlike a lottery. You always get far more misses than hits.
Take for example the list of leaders since Marcos. We have had:
Marcos (monstrously corrupt) -> Cory (so-so leadership, oligarch friendly) -> Ramos (hardworking but accused of corruption at some point) -> Erap (juetengate, inveterate drinker -> Arroyo (small Marcos in manner of corruption) ->PNOY (at least wise in choosing team members)
From the flow of leadership above, it appears that the Philippines had more misses than hits, which is the expected results. In fact, had Cory not died before PNoy got elected, we surely had Erap back in the palace drinking until wee hours now!
The root cause mainly lies with the Philippine constitution which draw much of its inspiration from humanism, which from the outset simply does not work under Philippine settings. No more no less. Any person can run as long as he can read and write because according to humanistic precepts he had equal privilege to that of someone with a university degree. So bad of a qualification to run for the highest office of the land.
At least we had Jessie Robredo who according inquirer columnist exemplifies what good governance is and that “doing this right can be done and with excellent results”. Sadly, Robredo prematurely died in an accident leaving again the country to run another batch of lottery so another Robredo would come out who may ride on traditional politics and used it as a vehicle to push for good governance. It is even arguable if Robredo magic can work in Metro Manila. If his DILG stint is any indication, the results he wanted to seems to have shown good results.
Weakness of Humanism
1. It is inflexible.
No government laws and policies explicit or otherwise can be made without disregarding the inherent value of human beings. Says Pimentel during the abolition of death penalty, “We would not cut the man’s finger because it is inhuman. Why take one’s own life?” No matter how practical a policy or law is for as long as it does not meet the basic humanistic criteria, it is good as moot.
2. It is slow like expecting a lottery win after years of buying tickets.
Since it is inflexible as its core tenet of human inherent value is non-negotiable when formulating laws, it is therefore relies mainly on the possibility of lottery winnings — hoping that someone among the current crop of leaders would get voted into office or transform into exemplary leader.
Relying on chance it is therefore inherently slow. In fact very slow.
Too many good people has fought for the betterment of the country but ended-like Jose Rizal – without seeing a dawn break. For sure, we can hope that the next generation will continue the fight as it is natural for them to do so but how soon the country’s progress trickle down to the poorest of the poor?
3. It comes with a hefty price tag.
Amnesty International or international human rights organisation maybe singing to high heavens that death penalty was lifted in the country. But to many Filipinos who deemed too gullible for the implications of the abolition, it has to foot the bill of excess criminals filing-up daily.
Interviewed about the overcrowding of prison cells in MuntinLupa, Duterte quipped, “Magpatay ka lang ng sampu araw-araw, solved na yong problema!”.
That’s one of the many hefty price tags to pay for following the precepts of humanism. International organisations provide us the principle but they don’t send blank cheque so they can foot the bill. But there are greater implications in the political spectrum – loss of precious times. Filipinos has to wait for as long as it take when they can have a duly-elected official who may enact laws too hostile to corruption, crimes, etc.
You may wonder why there are so many criminals plying in most cities all over the country? That’s the heft price tag to pay of not eliminating them because we may trample human rights – the possibility of killing prisoners who may be innocent.
4. Needs a fertile ground to flourish.
Americans and other first world countries have no problem applying humanism. Their people are well-educated and have sizeable functional middle class both of which the Philippines don’t have. You applied humanism to people who level of maturity is very low, you end up scoundrel occupying the higher leadership position of the land. Just look at Philippine Congress.
5. Implicit assumption that it will make us better human beings.
Humanisms assumes it thrives on superior principles over anything else. Take for instance human rights principles: There can be no real freedom without the lofty consideration of the very basic value of human beings.
However, in practice this is not always the case. For instance, the people of Davao may had been subjected to the law of the jungle according to humanism but when they are closely examined, ironically, in many ways, they are far more humane than those people of other cities – no rorting out of taxi fares, disciplined to obey traffic laws, cleanliness on their streets, etc.
Firstly, Davao residents were fearful, then they became conformist, then appreciative, then exhibit proper pride that they have a workable political system not inferior but in many ways superior to others.
Strength of Pragmatism
1. It is impatient
Pragmatism cannot wait until the Philippines win a lottery ticket – meaning effective leaders in most branches of government serendipitously get elected and in chorus do the right thing for the country. It can resortsto means that to most humanist appalling. Duterte threatening a rice smuggler in front of the senate maybe too bereft of decency – but in practical way, it does the job done. Rodrigo Duterte was just implicitly telling the senators, “consider the stopping of rice smuggling in my city done.”
This explains why Davao already have 911 and well-disciplined residents while most of the country don’t. It simply cannot wait to apply what it deemed necessary. Time is of utmost importance.
Also, this explains the resurgence of the highly efficient and effective killing machine called Davao Death Squad because it cannot wait the Philippines to become prosperous and have enough funds to run prison houses.
The Mongols eliminated the assassins in one scoop whereas the CIA took more than 10 years to get rid of Bin Ladin. It seems in the modern society as it adheres to humanism, the problem to eliminate threat seems a lot harder than those people of the past.
2. It quickly evolves.
Unlike humanism, pragmatism has virtually nothing non-negotiable. Therefore, it accepts new ideas or new strategies to meet head on the new challenges that comes its way. Its adaptability owes to the fact that it leave virtually nothing to chance or lottery just to push for its own agenda of progress.
That’s why we have more confidence that pragmatism can easily meet head on the perennial problems like agrarian reform or business cartels, those who controlled rice, drugs, etc can be eradicated quickly and efficiently.
3. The outcome is virtually the same but on a much faster rate.
People under the claws of a pragmatic government are not less likely to exhibit less humane behaviour. As soon as a well-disciplined citizenry gaining momentum and see the values of the efforts to arrive the kind of society they have, they will forget the seeming monstrosity of the past. This is where humanism starts to thrive. People are now capable of listening when they have something to put on their table.
Weakness of Pragmatism
1. Shun by international community
Pragmatic approach may not work well with international observers. In fact, if ala Davao Death Squad rolls all over the country, the president may possibly face a charge of crime against humanity. But its likelihood can depend on the peace and order and economic results, it’s hard to foresee a leader being tried of crime of a progressive and well-satisfied populace.
Sri Lankan leaders ,whose people may not at all economically satisfied, so far did not face a proper charge of crime against humanity before the international court of justice in the way they eliminated the Tamil Tigers. Some would say their leader are so wise by giving out large concession to US and UK before they raided the Tigers so when the news of abuses broke out, their leaders seems somewhat parried the charges and the international community seems lacking seriousness in pressing charges.
To some degree, if the pragmatic elimination of criminals is as systematic as it was done in Davao, then perhaps the president may possibly get off the hook. People may likewise cite that the CIA operatives are killings all over he globe and no one dared them to the international court of justice with the charge of violating basic human rights.
2. Innocents can be eliminated
After his exoneration, Dolphy Jr once said that there are many prisoners who are really innocent but because of financial standing, they can’t afford good lawyers to defend their cases. So under a pragmatic solution, hundreds or thousands will die just to do the “practical” thing.
This is where the strength of humanism thrives in debates. Most criminal defenders quote the dictum that “it is better to have a thousand guilty un-convicted than one innocent pay for crime he/she didn’t commit.” Of course, humanism is unwilling to cite that the thousand un-convicted will put another hundreds or thousand innocents who will fall prey to them if they’re scot-free.
The colourful mayor may use other term apart from pragmatism to describe his policy or he maybe uncomfortable with the term at all as it seem a blanket acceptance he his behind the spate of killings in the city. The choice is mainly to presuppose a political position so we can assert its contrast to humanistic principles.