Duterte: a rational response

Two days ago, I read a blogger’s essay detailing how a Christian should evaluate Rody Duterte’s presidential bid. And. I was dismayed, peppered as it was with scriptural references to get the reader to ponder whether   Duterte as president will be good or bad for the average Filipino.

Even though the author states in the end that he “is simply asking whether or not God can use him to bring peace, freedom from corruption, and justice for the oppressed Filipino/Filipina,” it was clear that most of the biblical quotations were there to support the author’s contention that anyone aspiring to the highest office in the land should be evaluated on whether or not “the Gospel of liberation and peace can be promulgated in a country through a person’s leadership.”

Don’t get me wrong – it was a finely crafted piece. But I beg to disagree on two points.

First, why evaluate the man on whether he is going to limit religious freedom or hamper the Great Commission? He is not running for a religious office. The separation of church and state will ensure that he will not dip his fingers into anything religious. The Filipino people have demonstrated their propensity for demonstrations. They will likely take to the streets once more when they see their religious freedom curtailed by anyone occupying Malacanang. Besides, do you think a guy who has violated several of the Ten Commandments  will dare to interfere or intervene in church affairs?

According to Tertullian, the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church. If it was true back then, it is even more true now. Don’t believe me? Visit this prayer map of the Voice of the Martyrs to read how the gospel is advancing amidst persecution.  So I don’t think we need to worry about whether our president’s policies will enable the gospel to spread within the Philippine archipelago.

Second, why vote into office a man who has no gumption in declaring that he has violated the law on countless occasions? No one is disputing Duterte’s impressive accomplishments. But. How can a guy who breaks the law swear to uphold the law once he is elected? Do we need more Dirty Harry’s to turn the Philippines into a crime-free country? The films we watch do not lie: violence begets violence. Taking out criminals will not deplete their supply. Not unless you have a multi-pronged program to tackle the root causes of crime. Which is poverty and lack of opportunities for economic advancement.

True, history is replete with famous figures whose personality and character left much to be desired but who also accomplished much in the name of nation building. Think Charles de Gaulle and Ivan the Terrible. Or Lee Kuan Yew (his personal life, as far as I know, remains spotless) who once declared

 “Between being loved and being feared, I have always believed Machiavelli was right. If nobody is afraid of me, I’m meaningless.”      
                                                                                                      Lee Kuan Yew

But. We already had a Macchiavellian leader in Marcos and look where that mired us. Should we vote for another?

Now I have no wish to bash Duterte’s fans. I understand that they have either accepted or overcome their disgust with his womanizing ways and extrajudicial killings, and ultimately have supported him out of – what John Maxwell describes as – respect for who you are and what you represent. It is this latter aspect that worries me and others. Duterte has reached the pinnacle of the 5 Levels of Leadership outlined by John Maxwell not only by subverting the law but because he considers himself above the law.

An elected position is a sacred trust. It is indeed a sad state for our country when so many people, disillusioned at the little gains we have to show 30 years after the restoration of democracy, turn to a self-confessed/proclaimed killer and womanizer who could not even make up his mind at the start whether to bid for the highest office in the land or maintain his current position as lord of Davao. IMHO, Duterte’s indecision smacks of a lack of vision – c’mon, if you’re aspiring to serve a country of 100 million through the next six years, you’ve got to have a vision* of where you want it to be at the end of your term.

Is Duterte the answer to what ails us? The blogger who penned the biblical response seems to think that God can use him despite his faults. And I agree with him. God has used sinful leaders (who usually were not elected btw) throughout history to fulfill prophecy** and accomplish his aims***. At this point, however, it is useless to debate Duterte’s usefulness to the Almighty as only one question remains: who, among the candidates, is the lesser evil?

* Mar Roxas is campaigning to continue President Aquino’s Daang Matuwid slogan. Walden Bello penned a succinct summary of Mar Roxas’ weaknesses and faults here

** A fine example is Herod the Great’s massacre of children

*** Ever wonder why World War 2 had to happen? Think about its end result: the creation of a nation from the return of a scattered people whose diaspora began more than two thousand years ago.


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