The Donald and the Deegong — lame ducks? New Mandala

The Donald and the Deegong — lame ducks? Featured

PRESIDENTS Rodrigo “Deegong” Duterte and Donald Trump are a fascinating study in the arrogance of power, bordering on megalomania, not seen since the leaders of World War 2. Winston Churchill, Charles the Gaulle (Après moi, le déluge), Franklin D. Roosevelt and even Adolf Hitler, whom Duterte appeared to liken himself to by threatening to exterminate 3 million drug users and peddlers. The Deegong and the Donald are both charismatic, whose sheer force of personality catapulted them to their presidencies. Both are nominal members of pathetic political parties they dominate, unfettered by party core beliefs. And both have a personal distinctive voter base; Trump by the fanatically loyal middle-aged noncollege graduate white male, who feel politically voiceless; Deegong by the millennials, wary and tired of the old tradpol practices, augmented by the diehard Duterte supporters displaying Nazi-like fist-bump salutes; eclipsing the Centrist Democrats, like many of us, adherents of real change to the perverted system of governance promised by candidate Duterte in 2016.
Trump lost the popular vote, but won in the electoral college; Deegong by 39 percent of the voters, a minority but enough to win against a field of four monochromatic presidential candidates. 
Both come from the fringes as mavericks; Trump from real estate and Duterte from local politics. Both have a complicated relationship with their children compelled to follow parallel paths. Even their appetites for women are legendary. The Deegong’s two marriages, one unrecognized under antediluvian Catholic Church doctrines, do not defer much from Trump’s three marriages (two divorces). Both have bragging rights on amorous conquests, insipidly discussing in public the size of their penises. Both are inferior paragons toward their respective youths as moral deviants and confessed adulterers or at the very least, philandering husbands.
Women accuse them of chauvinism or worse, of being misogynists, defined mainly by their attitude and language; Trump’s “grab them by the p***y” and the Deegong’s “pusila sa bisong” are now iconic phrases; a blight on their presidencies that will outlive them. The similarities end here.
Trump is the darling of the American religious right and the Bible-toting Midwest and a member of the Presbyterian Church. He is supported by the big-ticket televangelists in America, among whom is Franklin Graham, the son of Billy Graham, who has preached to a staggering “215 million people in 185 territories and countries.”

Duterte, who professes to be Islamic, when convenient, is the only Philippine president with the temerity to curse the Pope, Barack Obama and God. This blasphemy is unprecedented in a Catholic country, while the hierarchy stood by in disbelief with their tails tucked between their legs. But he has his long-time political ally Pastor Apollo Quiboloy, a Davao billionaire preacher who claims to be the “appointed son of God” — and boasts he can stop earthquakes.

Trump’s and Duterte’s dominance over their presidential coterie is total, reducing the same virtually into daunted factions of “yes men.” The difference is that Trump is faithless to his senior staff many of whom ignominiously left the White House. Duterte, on the other hand, has shown almost blind loyal backing for his people to the extent of reassigning miscreants to other sinecures in government.

Trump in four years has been known to have liberally told 3,000 lies, while nobody has dared count Duterte’s. Trump, a billionaire, is seen to be corrupt. He can redeem himself if he gets a second four-year term. President Duterte on the other hand is perceived to lead not exactly an ascetic life, but a simple one — and is not corrupt!

Lame duck presidency

Which brings us to an important intervening issue. The “lame duck presidency.” Trump could be one in a few months if the Democrats produce a strong and credible presidential candidate from their Democratic hopefuls. Fresh from being exonerated at his impeachment trial, Trump is at it again — unrepentant and wreaking havoc by interfering in the US criminal justice system. But the continuing Democrat narrative that the impeachment trial was obviously rigged in his favor by a Republican Senate majority may yet persuade the Americans, beyond Trump’s base, that he is not at all fit for the US presidency, let alone a second term; making Trump a lame duck president.
But it’s a different scenario for Duterte. The paradox in Philippine presidential politics is that although Duterte still has three more years in office, his reelection is not an option, unlike many of the senators, congressmen and local government executives. For their electoral campaign money is the lifeblood, and stealing from public coffers or selling their souls to the oligarchy and the elite is par for the course, to buy votes, loyalty and in some areas in the hinterlands — the need for “guns and goons."
And Duterte has been very loud and adamant in his anti-corruption campaign to prevent massive rent-seeking, but absent the mechanisms and the systems to prevent the same, thus the leakage is still pervasive. Duterte has been attacking the very people who finance elections — the oligarchy, the true patrons of the traditional politicians. These are the permanent, steady, reliable and long-term sources. For the tradpols, the choice seems clear. Their political survival demands pragmatic reassessments of their loyalty toward an ephemeral strongman.
Signs of ‘lame-ducking’
And the signs are there for the political cognoscenti to observe; the shifting power — antithetical to an earthquake, first a series of small “after quakes” before the big one. The rats are abandoning ship; defections from the Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan, the president’s party, are accelerating back to the embrace of the oligarch-funded National Unity Party and Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats. But party leaders are careful to tread delicately, explaining that they still support the Deegong’s legislative agenda.
But deadlier are the signs that Duterte may cave in on their demands for an extension of ABS-CBN Corp.’s franchise. The mechanism to save face caused by his tantrums are now in play. First, the Deegong has accepted the Lopezes’ apology setting the stage for an “about face.” Then, Palace spokesman Salvador Panelo the talking head, has just declared that the President does not have anything to do with the franchise extension or its lapse. It is solely Congress’ responsibility.
The Department of Justice followed with a declaration that ABS-CBN could operate with an expired franchise. The presidential gofer in the Senate declares, “The President is fair to all and will save ABS-CBN jobs.” And then the clincher, daughter Sarah, the heiress apparent — “I support granting franchise extension to ABS-CBN.” The ABS-CBN, owned by the Lopez family, is simply too big to fail. They are now cashing in their markers with the senators and congressmen that they own.
And the emasculated Senate has found its voice by going ahead with a review of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), which the President wants abrogated. Perhaps it is worth noting that a recent poll showed that Filipinos are not with the President on this. Although three-fourths of the Filipinos approve of the President, more than four-fifths of Pinoys want the VFA retained. Our colonial mentality runs deep. We still rely on Uncle Sam!
These are definite signs of a tectonic political power shift, imperceptible as yet, but inexorably contributing toward the “lame ducking” of the Deegong.
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Read 558 times Last modified on Wednesday, 04 March 2020 12:22
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