[OPINION | NEWSPOINT] Duterte’s word replaces the Constitution


You can deny it to yourself all you like, but you and I and the rest of the nation have, for all intents and purposes, completed our descent into authoritarianism.

When President Duterte said, on national television, that the Constitution is nothing more than toilet paper, yet provoked in us little more than sparse and momentary lip protest, he got us where he wanted us; he got us in the same situation we had found ourselves when his professed idol Ferdinand Marcos put us under martial law, in 1972. We also had refused to believe that Marcos, despite his own broad-enough insinuations, was taking us down that route. 

He made his move in the dead of night, giving his targets no chance of escape from a roundup, before revealing a pre-signed proclamation installing himself as the law. The Marcos experience prompted a rewrite of the Constitution; it now provides that, before any extreme emergency, like martial law, goes into force, Congress should vet it and the Supreme Court should resolve all questions of law arising from it. But, with both institutions coopted into the regime, as evidenced by their assent to just about Duterte’s every wish, what’s the point? 

Duterte got gang mates out of legal trouble (plunder mainly) or jail; on the other hand, he has taken his critics to court on implausible charges or otherwise persecuted them. He got Marcos a hero’s burial. He has so far gotten away with thousands of kills that have the hallmarks of executions in his war on drugs. For two and a half years now he has kept Mindanao, one of our 3 main islands, under martial law, supposedly because of lawlessness gone out of control. If he seems to have stopped threatening to extend the emergency to the rest of the country, the only reason would be that, with the Constitution now in the sewers, he no longer feels the need for formalities. How did we manage to descend so low? 

We must have hit the point of no return when we allowed Duterte to cede control over our geopolitically strategic and resource-rich West Philippine Sea to the Chinese, who promptly took it over exclusively for themselves and proceeded to plunder it not only for fish but for corals and other endangered marine species. Betraying expansive designs, they also began to build an island on its shallows – it’s now an air base and a missile installation.

Chinese mainlanders, meanwhile, have been swamping Manila to take up jobs in enterprises set up on Chinese capital (online gambling mostly) and government projects financed with odious Chinese loans, grabbing business and livelihood opportunities from Filipinos. Estimates put the number of these exploitative immigrants between 400,000 and close to a million. The immigration bureau has not released a definite count; the influx must have been too overwhelming for the bureau – and too alarming for us. At any rate, a special gesture of Filipino hospitality is extended to these interlopers; for one thing, instant visas await them at the ports.  

And, flying home just now (July 17), from a second trip out of the county this year, I notice for the first time that the immigration “ARRIVAL CARD” has a Chinese translation of the instructions from the previously English-only one. 

To anyone who yet doubts that Duterte cares at all, his attitude should have been revealed conclusively when he arbitrarily let off a Chinese patrol that had rammed and destroyed a Philippine fishing boat and abandoned its 22-man crew, who had been pitched overboard. It happened in the same Philippine waters that he had handed over to the Chinese, in fact in the very area designated as Exclusive Economic Zone.

The Constitution explicitly prohibits the exploitation of such zones by foreigners. 

Warned that, by exempting the Chinese from the prohibition, he committed an impeachable offense, he ditched the Constitution and threatened to have anyone who dared impeach him arrested. That no one has dared is a testament to the sense of dread or futility or both struck among the political opposition, whose number in the House of Representatives, where any impeachment charge should emanate, does not even approach the required one third of the membership to bring it off, the precise excuse made for the default.

In fact, by and large, default it is, if not outright collaboration, that has been the attitude of the oversight institutions, including, most regrettably, the Church and the press, toward Duterte. Again, with Marcos, it was the same attitude that enabled him to rule as a dictator for 14 years. And, with Duterte as a worshipper of his memory and protector of his heirs, the Marcos dynasty, coupled now with the Dutertes, lives on. – Rappler.com