Duterte’s greatest gift to the nation: The revival of nationalism

By Getsy Tiglao

With the Philippines’ truncated revolution against its Spanish colonizers, and their quick replacement thereof with American masters, our country never got the chance to carve its own destiny, thus our national identity was never set in stone.

Even after the departure of the Americans as colonialists on July 4, 1946, following the signing of the Treaty of Manila, Filipinos were still bobbing in self-doubt. We even celebrated independence day the same day the Americans did for 16 years, until President Diosdado Macapagal moved it to June 12, the day Philippine revolutionaries declared their independence from Spain.

Up to the 1980s, there was still a persistent Philippine Statehood Movement, with some organized in the US by Filipino immigrants. There used to be a Federalist political party during the colonial era with political candidates that ran on the platform of becoming the newest state of the United States.

This “statehood” thing is now considered a joke with those advocating it being declared as nuisance candidates. Still, many Filipinos have decided to resolve their inner uncertainties by just becoming American, Canadian, or Australian citizens.

Interestingly, the most vociferous critics of the country today are these former Filipinos that have adopted foreign citizenships.

From the comfort of their suburban homes in the developed world, they pontificate on how the government should be run, criticize its various programs, spew hate on the current leader, and yet they don’t realize they are simply parroting what their host countries are saying. They express disgust with crime and corruption, along with a thousand other criticisms that they have no right in saying because they already abandoned their homeland.

The thing is, these former Filipinos are already viewing the Philippines through the lens of their newly adopted countries, which are already rich and developed (not to mention pompous and arrogant). They fail to see how complicated the problems of the Philippines are, that any comparison with a Western nation is wrong and unfair.

More importantly, we have different histories and culture, which is why those with Western world viewpoints should not impose their values and standards on us Asians.

This is also why I and millions of other Filipinos are grateful that President Duterte has reminded us that we are Filipinos first, and then Asians. He has worn the Philipine flag on his lapel with pride instead of the yellow ribbon favored by a cultish group.

Duterte, through his “colorful” pronouncements (hated by the conservative elite, but loved by everyone else) has been “shaking the tree” in order to wake us up, agitate us enough so we get out of our doldrums. Yes, we have been stuck in a morass while the rest of our neighbors zipped by and overtook us with their booming economies.

Our lingering colonial mentality is a big part of the problem especially if we examine how the Asian economies prospered: through strong authoritarian governments backed up by a united and nationalist citizenry.

Former Filipinos ask, why can’t the Philippines be more like Singapore (or Thailand, Malaysia, etc.)? Because these are run by strong governments (i.e. authoritarian, dictatorships, one-party rule) while we have a freewheeling democracy handed down to us by our former colonial master. We are the only country in Asia with an unrestricted press, and we are also the only one without a sustained economic growth. Yes, there is correlation between the two but this is another story.

Duterte is the first Philippine president in recent history to break with the US. It’s not a total break, mind you, but more of a declaration of our independence in foreign policy matters. We have the right to seek productive relationships with other countries, including those that the US perceives as its enemies (but with whom it does business anyway) including China and Russia. But the Philippines is being punished for trying to grow up and outgrow its dependence on the US. This explains Western media’s (especially the New York Times) very critical coverage of Duterte and his reformist government.

Filipino-Americans who read NYT and the online version of the mainstream newspapers with “yellow” bias, will think that there are dead bodies everywhere in the Philippines with reports of “tens of thousands” killed in the government’s campaign against illegal drugs.

This is such a lie, propagated by no less than the chairman of the Commission on Human Rights Chito Gascon, who is still acting like he is campaign manager of the “yellow” Liberal Party. There are NO “tens of thousands” killed. The Philippine police is a professional institution and it follows the rule of law.

You don’t believe me, come home to the Philippines and interview the common folks on the streets (not your fellow elites) and ask them if they feel safer after Duterte’s drive against criminality and illegal drugs. The fact is that the crime rate has gone down under Duterte but this is not being reported by the biased newspapers, who like good indios are aiming to please their foreign masters.

Duterte’s tough stance against the US has earned him the respect of leaders in Asia and in the rest of the world. A country’s president is expected to fight for his nation’s interests, and the Philippines is doing so by rekindling relations with our neighbor China, the new economic superpower in the region.

The opposition’s campaign uses “false nationalism” where they are portraying China as the “villain” with us as the victims in the South China Sea territorial dispute. This is such an outmoded form of propaganda (“good vs evil”) and it might have worked in the 1980s but not today, with the Internet-savvy citizens becoming learned in geopolitics and the machinations of the Western powers.

Talking with China, having a good relationship with them, does not mean we are giving anything up in the disputed areas. What we musn’t do again is act like the pawn of the US where we are made to fight China while they snicker in the background, waiting for a chance to play white knight when World War III erupts.

The dirty tactic of a “yellow” group to portray the Philippines as a “province” of China backfired on them. Now they are the ones seen as betraying the country with their cheap potshots. They’ve only made Filipinos more nationalistic as the “yellows” are now seen as the enemy representing the worst in our colonial past.

Under Duterte, we will see a further strengthening of the country’s nationalism as Filipinos are fast becoming aware that they can determine their own destiny.

We are also lucky to have for the first time a president who is not Manila-centric. This is because an effective Philippine president sees and acts on the needs of the entire country, especially those of the long-neglected southern areas. Is it any wonder then that Duterte’s approval rating is 99 percent in Mindanao? Nationwide his approval numbers are still in the upper 80s.

Filipinos are very happy with Duterte. New York Times, are you listening? Can you stop printing lies and nonsense?