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Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte has once again stated that he is considering invoking something in Philippine law called “Revolutionary Government”, a mechanism which suspends some of the normal functions of governance, in order to more effectively tackle corruption and ensure the smooth implementation of much needed reforms.
After one year and a half in power, Duterte has radically changed the face of politics in Philippines and radically shifted the foreign and domestic policies of the country.
Duterte’s agreements with China over the South China Sea provide a new model for peaceful cooperation in South East Asia with the undisputed superpower of the Asian world. Duterte has also signed historic agreements on security and infrastructural investment with Russia, all while working on free trade deals with the US.
Duterte has proposed a penultimate peace plan for the long burning Moro crisis in Mindanao, while at the same time demonstrating that while he will work with all peaceful parties in a political process, he will at the same time, crush terrorism as he did when the ISIS linked Moro group laid siege to Marawi.
Duterte has put more public funds into public services while tackling the drug problem that has fuelled decades of crime, broken homes and funded terrorism.
These are just some of Duterte’s many early achievements.
In spite of these tremendous achievements, Duterte is still constrained by a systematic corruption among the Manila elite that he is growing tired of rapidly. Duterte is clearly a doer and as Presidents in Philippines can only serve one-term, Duterte is clearly a man who does not want to waste time.
Duterte has said the following about establishing a Revolutionary Government,
“Once your destabilization is already creating chaos, I will not hesitate to declare a revolutionary government until the end of my term.
This revolutionary government would reform the federal system, ratify a new constitution, slash corruption, improve and modernize security and put an end to the grip of the cartels. All this can be yours, Filipinos, if you just give the president absolute power”.
In an article dating from April of 2017, I said the following about why I believe the time is right for Duterte to lead a revolutionary government:
“In 1986, the new President of Philippines, Corazon “Cory” Aquino abolished the 1973 Constitution of Ferdinand Marcos and proclaimed a Revolutionary Government. This allowed Aquino time to re-draft a new set of national laws and a new constitution while also removing certain members of the previous regime from power.
According to what Aquino called ‘Proclamation No. 3’, she acquired both executive and legislative powers during the period of Revolutionary Government.
Recently, Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte has touted the idea of pursuing a similar form of revolutionary government, although he stopped short of saying that he intends to implement such reforms at this time.
“For me, my advice to a President who wants to change [is] do not go for martial law,” Duterte said in his speech. “They will just make an issue of it. Go for a revolutionary government so that everything will be finished.
If Cory (Aquino) can do it, why can’t you also do it? Why? Is there a monopoly here for our love for our country?
For the Philippines to really go up, I said: What the people need is not martial law. Go for what Cory did – revolutionary government. But don’t look at me. I cannot go there.
You declare all positions of the government vacant and change all. The mistake of Ma’am Aquino was to give it all back to the politicians”.
Duterte later described Cory Aquino’s failure to fully purge government posts of former officials as a “golden opportunity missed”.
While Duterte stated that he “isn’t into” such things, the fact that Duterte mentioned that he has considered a Revolutionary Government, is indicative of the reality that many of Duterte’s supporters who stand at around 90% of the Philippines population, would be inclined to want Duterte to lead such a revolutionary government.
It is not difficult to see why. Duterte’s policies and his style of government are indeed revolutionary. Duterte has presented Philippines with a political program which calls for vast changes to the way the country is run.
The President has proposed federalism as a peaceful means to quill local discontents, he has pledged a more equitable distribution of the country’s wealth and resources and he has pledged to tackle the problems of high crime and terrorism that are inexorably linked to the dangerous drug problems in Philippines.
Philippines is in need of the kind of economic boom that Vietnam experienced in the 1990s and into the 2000s as well as that which China experienced during the reforms of Deng Xiaoping. The central location of Philippines in Asia, its good climate, its young workforce and English literacy are all things that economists have pointed to which would indicate that Philippines should be a booming economy.
The biggest factors holding Philippines back are the crime problems related to drug trafficking and drug use. By cleansing Philippines of this problem, serious investment would more readily flow in and the country could get back to work in a crime free, healthy and productive environment.
In order for Duterte to execute his revolutionary aims for justice, prosperity and a more healthy society, he cannot afford to be held back by legislators who refuse to cooperate with the will of the people that has been expressed by the large support that President Duterte still enjoys. This is especially true since Presidents of Philippines are limited to a single six year term.
If Duterte wants to fully implement his revolutionary policies, it is only fitting that he should at least temporarily lead a revolutionary government. The precedent set by Cory Aquino is there. Proclamation No. 3 was put into place as recently as 1986. What has transpired in the subsequent decades in Philippines has not been such a sacred success story that such a provision cannot be exercised again.
The changes that Rodrigo Duterte seeks to make in Philippines are no less revolutionary than that which transpired in 1986 at the end of the Marcos era. Duterte owes it to his supporters and to his nation to lead a Revolutionary Government that can truly set Philippines on course to be a safe, prosperous and healthy Asian economic power that it has always had the potential to be.
If Duterte succumbs to the power of his opponents, future generations will look at the Duterte Presidency as another “golden opportunity lost”. Duterte has the chance to seize the opportunity and win even more support for doing so. The only other viable option which exists before the nation is for Duterte’s opponents to stop trying to strangle the country’s political system with legal deadlock and accept that the people have spoken in favour of Duterte and that the popular will should not be hindered due to the egotism of the old political guard.
A brighter future for Philippines is at President Duterte’s fingertips. In the opposite direction stands a permanent political deadlock that does nothing but undermine Duterte’s mandate from the people”.
Duterte’s policies are revolutionary and his diplomatic efforts with new and existing partners abroad have already revolutionised the position of Philippines in the wider world. The country with the 10th fastest growing economy in the world is well on its way to being a regional powerhouse. Duterte must finish the job with a revolutionary government of his own.