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12 May 2016

Our Duty as Citizens: “Accept Duterte’s Victory But Engage His Government”

Editorial by Jonas Bagas

Accepting a Duterte victory is not tantamount to accepting a Duterte government. The former is a humbling feature of democracy and for those who campaigned against Duterte, his victory puts to question many assumptions; that, too, is part of our democratic realities, and we should be ready to go back to the drawing board.

But the latter is too wholesale, too early; it presumes that just because he has the highest number of votes, the ideas that he espouse are legitimate; that the overwhelming votes that he received absolve his errors, erases the Davao Death Squad or his misogyny.

Perhaps the better term is to engage. It may sound too development-ish, but if elections are a marketplace of ideas, the same is true with governance. It is necessary to engage, not to accept, because the former is a sign of active citizenship, while the latter is a tragic repetition of our collective mistake: leaving governance to those in power.

And we shouldn't, because not all things are right. Accepting the proposed curfew and limiting our conversations to the time of the curfew skirt so many questions: is it within the powers of the President, or a mayor? What is the basis?

We shouldn't, because about 13 million Filipinos voted for Bongbong Marcos based on a painfully flawed understanding of our history, with a whitewashed reading of the Marcos dictatorship. In order to correct that, we need to address Duterte's big idea: that we need authoritarian rule to put our house in order. The contexts may be different, but “kamay na bakal” in 1972 and “kamay na bakal” in 2016 are two sides of the same coin.

Jonas Bagas is a longtime
gay activist who owns
a dog named Kuya
I accept Duterte's victory and, as a political animal, I feel humbled by it. But I'm not accepting a government that's yet to be constituted, whose agenda remains generally unknown. As a citizen, it is my duty to engage and not be apathetic. Meanwhile, we pause and reflect; when things are ready, we roll our sleeves to work again.


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