Beyond Benevolent Dictatorship

Duterte is disturbing social and diplomatic sensibilities with his unrefined and seemingly unschooled language.  He thumbs his nose up at protocol and has managed to express “f_ck you” to the United Nations, saying that they cannot even solve long-running Middle East and Africa problems and thus should not meddle with him. Imperial Manila middle class and intellectuals are affronted by having an uncouth leader who threatens to kill the corrupt.  Linguistic as well as ideological attacks plague Duterte’s presidency.

Beyond having a benevolent dictatorship or naming Duterte’s leadership as a benevolent dictatorship, the Philippines is better served by an activist government. An activist government shakes things up to actually democratize society both in economics and politics. To get this ideal society where demarcations between economics and politics become insignificant, the Philippines must go through stages.  What is needed is a strong centralized government to address the weak organizations of the broad sectors and classes of society in both economics and politics. Developed countries in the East and West, the likes of China, Norway, and Sweden, met their success with the mobilization and empowerment of the workers, farmers, and the middle class.  Such organization and development of their societies, however, came to be because of the strong role of the State.

The activist government that Duterte can lead will use political power for economic development. The strong State will democratize agriculture and give farmers access to land and necessary support services. It will ensure food security because there is no real development without food supply.  Such a State will have a strong hand in the organization of farmers and other broad sectors of society. The State will make its own policies and not follow the IMF and World Bank in its neoliberal principles of taking away government subsidies to protect its agriculture sector. Neoliberalism allows full play of the market in Philippine economy, allows for privatization of state services and corporations, and lowers tariffs for imports. It converts citizens of the State into consumers who are left to the mercy of corporations and market competition. The Philippines, as well as other developing countries, cannot afford to accommodate neoliberal principles without protecting its economy and putting in place a grand plan to develop competitiveness first. Secure agriculture first and ensure that domestic needs for agricultural goods are met. Food is the base of development. Secure this, then industrialize and develop industries alongside it.  A strong government will have to be present to oversee such development, make sure that farms are not sold, privatized, and converted. This direction of development for the country cannot be left to the market and private corporations that will always jostle for best profits.  This direction of development for the country demands an iron hand and will from the State so as not to kowtow to neoliberal policies; an iron hand and will wielded by its President Duterte.

The State has different roles in developed and developing nations. In developed countries, there are more progressive people’s organizations, cooperatives, trade unions, middle class organizations, and media. The State, thus, has many helpers in monitoring, regulating, and promoting development. On the other hand, as long as these people’s organizations are not yet in place, the strong presence of the State is very crucial, especially when so many sectors of the economy still need to grow and be cultivated. In the Philippines, it is the agriculture sector that needs to be prioritized and protected by the State.  Tragically, thousands of farmers hard hit by the El Nino drought in Kidapawan, North Cotabato had to rally last March 2016 and demand for rice and seeds from the local government. The farmers were violently dispersed which left three people dead and over a hundred injured.  It was Davao City, under the command of Duterte, that sent trucks of rice to the rallying and starving farmers.