Dutertismo and the war on drugs

“Dutertismo” is a term I coined in a column I wrote shortly before the 2016 presidential election (Public Lives, 5/1/2016). I used it to refer to the Philippines’ own version of the phenomenon that came to be known as “Nazism” in Hitler’s Germany, and as “Fascism” in Mussolini’s Italy. The more current name for these … Read more

Politics in the age of mass media

In the time of our elders, when we were just starting out as a young self-governing nation, those who aspired to lead our country felt bound to a code of political statesmanship by which they measured their eligibility for public office. They looked at themselves, so to speak, in the mirror of political virtues to … Read more

The will to fight back

That was a powerful speech Leni Robredo gave the other day. It was short, simple, and filled with formidable images that depict the situation our people find themselves in today. It gave the electorate a clear idea of why she’s running for president and why the nation desperately needs someone like her at this time. … Read more

Strongman rule vs. strong institutions

The sharpest way to frame the May 2022 presidential election is to portray it as a contest between strongman rule and governance by strong institutions. Not since the February 1986 snap election, which pitted the widow Cory Aquino against the dictator Ferdinand Marcos, have the Filipino people been presented with this choice in its starkest … Read more

Reclaiming the power to choose our leaders

The country’s biggest carnival is in town. Despite a surging pandemic, all eyes are focused on the arrival of the main stars that will perform in the May 2022 presidential elections. Hardly anyone bothers to ask why this or that personality is even part of the parade. All of them have figured one way or … Read more

Two faces of despotism

When Ferdinand Marcos proclaimed martial law on Sept. 21, 1972 (the actual date of implementation was Sept. 23), he had only about a year left before the end of his second and final term. But by declaring a state of emergency, he was able to extend his stay in office indefinitely. First elected in 1965 … Read more

Those other days of September

Before Sept. 11 was abbreviated to “9/11,” to refer to the coordinated terrorist attacks launched by the al-Qaida terror group against the United States of America in 2001, the date had been associated in the Philippines with the birthday of Ferdinand Marcos. Born on Sept. 11, 1917, he had always thought of this day as … Read more

The making of a tyrant

When Rodrigo Duterte was elected to the presidency in 2016, he thereby assumed the powers inherent in the nation’s highest office. Those powers were not granted to him in his personal capacity. They belong to the state, and therefore to the Filipino people. Their exercise is subject to certain rules of procedure and requires the … Read more

Politicking in the midst of a pandemic

There ought to be a proper place and time for partisan political talk. No president in his right mind should use his weekly meetings with his COVID-19 team to talk about his political plans when he finishes his term. But that is exactly what President Duterte did last Thursday in his address to the nation. … Read more

Lessons from Afghanistan

One wonders which is worse for a developing country with no economic or military muscle: to be consigned to the margins of global affairs, or to serve as a recurrent battleground of rival world powers. Throughout its long and fabled history, Afghanistan had known that because of its strategic location in Central and South Asia, … Read more