Can an iron fist create unity?

Unity by Igor Maykov

Unity by Igor Maykov

Understanding President Duterte #5

We humankinds are always in the business of drawing lines here and there. Some are spacial or geographic, maybe consisting of 9 dashes across a sea. Or perhaps there is a red line somewhere west of Panatag Shoal of which China should be very, very aware.

There are also lines in time, and we have crossed one and are heading toward another. The first was the election, signaling a changing of the guards and a stand-down by the Aquino Administration. The coming one is when President Duterte is sworn in and he will be fully accountable for his deeds. During campaign mode, he was not totally accountable. He was an exaggeration, bigger than life, full of pithy quotes and rash statements that threw everyone off balance.

The funniest thing in the world, cynically speaking, is to see the famed Duterte social media army turn apologist after the election. The election line moved them from offense to defense, as clearly as that half-court line in basketball establishes a team’s game play. The pot is blacker than the yellow kettle these days. Obnoxious thugs have now become “blind followers”. Amusing, no?

Well, I try not to use those labels, and I am confident that, among the 16 million people who put President Duterte in office, a great many are rational and good of heart. So we need to keep the thugs and trolls in perspective. They are not Duterte’s support base. They are his front line warriors. I’m more interested in what the full 16 million might be wanting out of this deal.

Do they want unity, do you suppose? Or is that just an ideal, a slogan, a feel-nice slice of apple pie that President Elect Duterte threw out for Filipino consumption right after the election? His words and deeds don’t always seem so unifying. He has offended priests and journalists and women and decency. He has coddled rebels and China and a guy named Marcos. While avoiding a lady named Robredo as if she were somehow a threat rather than a valuable resource.

The incoming Administration proposes to build unity by dividing the nation up into federated states. Is it just my mind that sees a contradiction here?

It’s perplexing.

The founders of the nation certainly had unity in mind, which we can readily observe with a few cuts from the Constitution:

Preamble . . . to secure to ourselves and our posterity, the blessings of independence and democracy under the rule of law and a regime of truth, justice, freedom, love, equality, and peace . . .

Justice. Love. Equality. Peace. One does not achieve those ends by dividing and labeling and discriminating against people. Or insulting them. Or threatening them.

Section 4. The prime duty of the Government is to serve and protect the people. . . .

It does not say SOME of the people.

Section 5. The maintenance of peace and order, the protection of life, liberty, and property, and promotion of the general welfare are essential for the enjoyment by all the people of the blessings of democracy.

Well, there it is, in black and white. The word “all”. All of the people are promised the blessings of democracy through peace and order and qualities of life that we all cherish.

Unity is mandated by the Constitution, or if there are natural divisions, such as man and woman, the members of each group are assured equality of protection of life, liberty and property. Even journalists. Even blind yellow followers.

So unity is a Constitutional mandate in that we are ALL granted the blessings of democracy under the sovereign state. We have to be concerned, though, about how President Duterte hopes to provide this unity and sovereign togetherness. He seems to have so many people he doesn’t respect. Can he serve them?

I tend to think there are two ways of assuring unity:

One way is to demand it, the other to inspire it.

The demanding version would be that used by every knee-jerk autocrat since the beginning of time. Issue new rules that constrain freedom and punish those who go outside the rules. Support the iron fist by using propaganda and constraints on public information to re-define the truth.

China is good at this. Her citizens truly believe that the Philippines is the bad guy in the contest for the seas. Filipinos, those conniving, cheating dogs, are trying to take something from the Chinese people. The Philippines is insulting China and Chinese citizens by being disrespectful in filing a court case, and China, by damn, is wholly within her rights to use her military to right this egregious wrong done to the Chinese people.

Scary, isn’t it? That innocent people can be so manipulated, as the Chinese people are being manipulated.

Well, it is a choice, is it not? Whether or not the autocrat will try to redefine our context, our principles, our beliefs, our moral judgments, our rules and our deeds so that we all line up in a unified way behind the leader.

Or else.

That’s rather a force fed unity wholly at odds with the democratic principles we prize, of honor and truth and transparency, of freedom to speak and worship get educated so we can compete for jobs; of non-discrimination; of trial before punishment,

The inspiring way would be that used by great democratic leaders throughout the ages. Service minded rather than control minded. Rational decision making based on information and open debate. Respect for minorities and people of faith. Opportunity, o’sweet opportunity, available for the hard working and earnest.

The people who voted for Mr. Duterte seem to think the Philippines needs an iron fist.

Perhaps they have never experienced anything but that kind of control from above, always being told what to do. Maybe they have never found inspiration in the Philippines. Inspiration, after all,  makes people WANT accountability and to be disciplined, rather than shoving it off onto others.

I do fear that we have a bit of culture warp. The 16 million want the iron fist to make them whole. Most of the 84 million, I’d guess, want inspiration. They want to be served, and helped by government, so they can stand up on their own.

Was Mayor Duterte blowing smoke about unity? If not, what kind of unity are we in for?

The kind that 16 million want, because they know no different?

Or the kind that 84 million want, because there is opportunity attached? And hope. And inspiration.

There is even a chance that self-fulfillment will be attached. And discipline.


89 Responses to “Can an iron fist create unity?”
  1. Gemino H. Abad says:

    Absolute respect for individual human dignity and freedom is what inspires trust and cooperation.

    • Joe America says:

      Well, in my lifetime of various activities involved in school leadership, military leadership, civic leadership and corporate leadership, it is for sure the giving of respect and honor that generates the inspiration and even sacrifice, and the quickest way to suppress it is to order obedience, as if we all belonged in a cage to be trained like little white mice. Yes, I agree with you completely, Sir Jimmy.

  2. Duterte’s stated intention to use exclusively government media facilities in the next six years to the absolute exclusion of the private press is a form of censorship is precisely what you, JoeAm, call “using propaganda and constraints on public information to re-define the truth.” So, from now on, all the Filipino people will get from the Duterte Administration is government propaganda and censored news, very much like what we got during the Marcos dictatorship. We have a creeping dictatorship in our midst.

  3. arlene says:

    I am trying, trying hard to understand how one could inspire/create unity at the rate “things” are going right now. The Filipino people are not puppets who would just nod their heads in agreement because they are afraid.

  4. karlgarcia says:


  5. Sup says:

    Am i wrong that i have a feeling JoeAm that you have the feeling that your ”verbal” life did change since the start of election time/ election, your ”right” of freedom of expression is in danger…..?

    What is wrong in the PH?

    Most country’s will allow dual citizenship with all rights..not Philippines…lifetime guest…

    • Joe America says:

      By law, I have fewer rights and not all the protections of a Filipino citizen. I accept that as fair.

      My sense of ease cycles up and down. I don’t have the latitude to object to official government acts as a citizen would, but had no trouble under President Aquino because I was not protesting, but instead supporting, with the occasional criticism. Because my values and ideas may differ under the new President, I would be much more circumspect in presenting them. Today I spent time on Facebook being cynical about Federalism, but in a way that does not oppose it, but asks for information before deciding pro and con. I was surprised to have forthright discussions with a Duterte backer who stuck with the issues and did not call names. That was nice, and I learned something, too. So if we can keep the channels of conversation open, then that’s the best I can hope for. I can’t join those who express themselves in blunt opposition, and I’ve lost some followers for not being confrontational.

      As a point of info, I also received a note from the director of the Duterte social media campaign after the blog about his program, and he said we should have coffee some time. I told him I don’t do advocacies, and he said that’s okay, we could just talk. So I think there is an interest from the Admin to keep communications open, as well. I also received an invite from a backer to go to Davao I think with the idea that I would meet PE Duterte.

      So we are all dancing in slow motion, and the music is being played by ear . . .

      • LG says:

        You are not only famous, but also getting notorious (to them), Joe!

        If you do, you will have to personally state your real name and show the real face?

        P. S. Don’t forget your DL for validation😉

        • Joe America says:

          Haha, yes, I’l have to show my real face unless I can get MLQ3’s face pasted on my shoulders. Most people think he is me, even that notable Peter Wallace. A lot of people know my real name. People I trust, and I suppose it will establish a bond of trust in the Duterte camp, too, if it comes to that. See if they really have integrity (I think they do, at that level).

          • packednut says:

            Be very careful who you reveal yourself to in the Duterte Admin, some are decent but a lot are insidious and destructive and have a we’ll get you attitude. I personally had a run in with Duterte years ago and he vowed to have my family bow down to him as he said the other Davao families have.He doesn’t brook any kind of criticism. I’m lucky only because some of his people are also my close friends even before he came to power and they shield me. Add to that the fact that my family gives Xmas baskets, lechon, etc. yearly to City Hall, the Courts, the City Prosecutors Office, gasoline allowance to the PNP, etc.. So from one who lives the Davao nightmare daily, be careful and stay safe. I too have to keep my name private, else I further incur their wrath.

            • Joe America says:

              Thanks for the advice, packednut. I appreciate it. ps, I corrected the typo.

              • packednut says:

                I’m amazed that you have the time to reply to the comments, especially from an ordinary guy like me. I don’t expect it but appreciate it very much. I read your blogs regularly but I don’t normally make any comments, but the political situation has forced me to somehow feel the need to say something. I just found out that there’s a way to comment privately on your website. I might just do that instead as I feel very vulnerable and unsafe out in the open in the internet. Great website, illuminating insights and commentaries.

              • Joe America says:

                Well, you help the blog by contributing to our information and ideas, so I try to return the favor, especially for those who don’t comment regularly. The regulars pretty much fend for themselves, so if I’m busy, the blog runs by itself.

              • LG says:

                There is, to do private messaging through the TSH website? How?

              • karlgarcia says:

                by e-mailing joe?Contact tab above?

            • LG says:

              Packednut. Duterterte’s name calling spree of Mar gives him away as what you imply him to be, aversive to any criticism of him, personal or otherwise. He definitely lets you know with a malicious sting, one sting per.

          • LG says:

            Stoop or look up? He he.

  6. bill in oz says:

    Joe, I have read this post…. And I have nothing to say by way of a comment.. I guess I have said it all already.. And now would prefer a break from thinking about Duterte..

    By contrast the coconut conversation with Bert got me going . :- ).

    • karlgarcia says:

      Bert said the hybrid coconut trees are only as tall as him. If those short trees have coconuts then people would not have to climb the tree or need a very long pole.

      • bill in oz says:

        Pamplona says that there various different new hybrid types. He is growing Matag bred in the Philippines & Nam Won & Nam Hom from Thailand. They are dwarf types but if fertilised they are extremely productive..Matag at 5 years produces an average of 200 nuts per tree. Also they are grown at higher densities per hectare …. 6 by 6 meter spacings.. So a hectare can yeild 38,000 nuts per ha. after 5 years….. That’s a high value crop ! traditional coconut grown varieties are far less productive but do not need the fertiliser and weedng..

      • Bert says:

        karl, you’re correct, but that’s the only positive thing about it.

        The negatives are as follows:

        1. You share the coconuts with every passersby specially the naughty kids, :). Coconuts in the province sells for ten pesos a piece, thirty to forty pesos in Manila markets. The young coconut sells for fifteen to twenty pesos a piece in the province, thirty in Manila markets. And coconuts are very sellable anywhere whether in the rural areas or in urban centers.
        2. It has been tried in my place but did not click because it’s prone to disease.
        3. It has a very short life span, ten years at most, while the original variety can last 100 years if lucky enough to survive the typhoons and cadang-cadang disease.

        • karlgarcia says:

          1.cctv on every tree, then people can have sonething to watch nightly on cctv patrol
          .Siguro laki ng tubo ng mga trader,
          2. for cocolisap kiko pangilinan to the rescue
          3 fior typhoons wait for another climate change so no more typhoons,

          • Bert says:

            Laki rin ng tubo ng mga passersby kung hybrid ang tanim mo, hehehe.

            Speaking of typhoons, and here I will be speaking from experience, I think that there is no truth to the rumor that the traditional variety coconut trees are unproductive or less productive because of old age and senility as asserted by Bill. These kind of coconuts are prolific fruit bearers even at age 50 years if not interfered with such as by tuba gathering or ravaged by typhoon. It will take more than a year for the traditional coconut to recover and return to fruit bearing once ravaged by typhoon, and typhoons occur so frequently in the Bicol region. A stark contrast to the hybrid which seldom recover, if at all.

            There was one time in my life that no typhoon visited my place for three consecutive years and wow what a bonanza for us coconut farmers.

            • Ako naman ay makiki sabat.

              What I remember reading from a research funded by the Malaysian government is that the productivity of coconut trees decline after the 40th year of productivity.

              The recommendation of that paper is that the government establish the practice of replanting in such a way as to retire coconut trees when their output begins to taper.

              Of course that is from malaysia YMMV.

              • Bert says:


                Decline, maybe, and I tend to agree with that, but that does not contradict my statement that at age fifty coconuts, barring typhoons and disease, are still prolific fruit bearers.

                As to replanting, it is a must and being done, not so much for retiring still productive ones (not practical) but to replace those totally destroyed by frequent typhoon and by cadang-cadang disease.

                Thanks for the inputs, giancarlo.

              • Nice, since typhoons and natural disasters do their share of uprooting the trees, then the process of replacement can be done as needed.

              • bill in oz says:

                By the way, I hold to my view; the coconut protection 1996 law is lunacy. Philosophically & practically.
                This is an internationally traded commodity. The Philippines faces competition from Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, India, etc.. And even from Carribean & Pacific island nations…The only way for Filipino growers to continue to exist & thrive is to have a free market environment were they can maximise production and minimise costs. Probably in regions that are not affected by typhoons…( Not Bicol unfortunately Bert)

                As for hybrids, Pamplona is the only expert who has done research & published it on them. that I know of in the Philippines. If you have experience with hybrids, write a letter to the editor of Agriculture magazine and add your knowledge to what else is published..

              • Bill I’m just joking.

                Why can’t nurses pay be handled through free market ideology while coconut trees cannot be protected through legislation.

                repeating : just joking.

              • Joe America says:

                I’m losing track of your advocacies, but will add coconuts to the expanding list. 🙂

              • LG says:


              • karlgarcia says:

                I was also joking on the Imperial Manila comment.
                At least it started an exchange between Vicara and Andrew.

              • bill in oz says:

                Actually that’s a great question gian….. Nurses are employees.. Coconut growers are farmers operating on their own land.whether big or small..
                I am all for government exercising it’s authority to protect employment conditions of employees.
                And I am all for governments encouraging industries by getting in the way of increased production & by not burdening them with unnecessary bureaucracy & paperwork .. The coconut tree protection act 1996 is an example of this.

                What does YMMV mean ?

              • karlgarcia says:

                your mileage may vary-thats all i know

              • bill in oz says:

                I like nuts…And really like buko ! So yes I can be a nutty advocate :- )

              • karlgarcia says:

                Bill,this one’s for you.

  7. manuelbuencamino says:


    Noynoy said, “Kayo ang boss ko.” Du30 says, “Ako ang boss niyo.” Someone tried that iron fist shit before and he succeeded in uniting the people against him. Du30 does not seem to believe doing the same thing in the same way will produce the same result.

  8. NHerrera says:

    Some of us are comfortable with disunity but under a democratic government circumscribed by the existing Constitution and Laws. Others want to enforce unity with an iron fist. But unity of what kind?

    • LG says:

      If we ever become a federal govt, we can be called then, the UIP (United Islands of the Philippines). For we are historically disunited, not only naturally separated, and have been sort of happy about that. Will we be happier, less needy?

  9. Micha says:

    Duterte’s determined focus on illegal drugs is misguided. Going by the lesson from Latin America, it would only consume a lot of government resource with substantial collateral casualties of innocent civilians without ever any guarantee that the war could actually be won. Presently, drug trade in south and northern America is still a lucrative hundreds billion dollar business.

    There’s a smart, more effective, more humane way to combat illegal drugs such as those being employed by Portugal and Netherlands.

    Duterte’s bounty offer on drug lords and his macho posturing of “putang ina, papatayin talaga kita” is not one of them.

  10. DAgimas says:

    he never learned from his Marcos idol. if iron fist works, he should not have to “cleanse” Davao of insurgents after the Marcoses fled the country.

    A Viet co worker once told me when I expressed my views about welfare that there maybe more social problems to solve if welfare is only given to those mentally and physically incapacitated. and I think he is right and also Erap. A hungry stomach knows no law. its not that I don’t believe in law enforcement but that is just one factor. how about JOBS? somehow its not only criminality that is the problem. it is just a symptom of the widespread poverty.

    maybe better tax collection or increase tax to the wealthy to provide more social services? better support for the RH law to tame the population growth (which I think is the real root of all these problems)

    I mean theres a lot to tackle and its not just about eliminating the low level street drug dealers (again, they are targeting the only the “symptoms”, how about the drug lords? they should be the first?)

    and why stop only with the street level drug dealers? how about the corrupt govt officials? I would not shed a tear if these are the ones to be eliminated first

  11. uht says:

    Unity by the strength and cooperation of millions is almost always much stronger than a unity forced by the rule of one. There are people who have the will to become the exception to this rule, but they are far and few in between, and even then, people will not always budge, or hold respect for the one.

    An iron fist is no match for the fists of a nation that acts as one.

  12. packednut says:

    An iron fist won’t create unity. Maybe it will bring people together in the short term to topple the iron fist. Margie Moran once said that Davaoenos are walang pakialam and got bashed by everyone but she was right. Davao is a fractured community and the people have become immune to what is happening around them. They have reverted back to the fearful days when Davao was called the killing fields, Nicaragdao, when the NPAs killed at least one person per day.

    The statistics speak for themselves
    Philippine National Police data from 2010-2015:
    Davao is No.4 in total Crimes – 37,797,
    No.1 in Murder- 1,032
    No.2 in Rape- 843

    In 2014, a crime is committed in Davao City every 80 minutes.

    In 2014, almost 40 percent of barangays in Davao City fell under the category of “seriously affected by drugs” based on the assessment of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA). In addition, 72 out of 180 barangays of Davao City are heavily-infested by illegal drugs.

    • Joe America says:

      I must say, President Elect Duterte is a master at spreading unease. When police become the thugs, that old motto “to protect and serve” goes away and gets replaced by “keep your mouth shut!”. The PH used to be about 50 years behind the rest of the world. The Aquino Admin brought it forward to 30. Now we are back to about 1870, when the laws of the Wild West hinged on who had the most guns, or could draw them quickest.

      • packednut says:

        More Philippine National Police data from 2010-2015 on Davao’s crime ranking I forgot to mention:
        No.3 in homicide cases,
        No.3 in physical injury cases,
        No.4 in robbery cases,
        No.5 in theft cases, and
        No.5 in carnapping cases!

        • LG says:

          Packednut, thanks for reminding us. Mar tried to educate us about the Davao crime free myth. Duterte voters ignored the stats and Mar got called out with another derogatory name.

          To peg Duterte’s anti-crime success or lack of it, the PNP must have their stats in place henceforth, with 2010-2015 stats for each city/municipality as baseline.

  13. Ultimate observer says:

    There is a unity that binds us to follow the rules of law or the constitution. And we unite willingly when we see something good come out of doing so.
    Do we need an iron fist to make us follow the law? Many don’t see their lives improve even when they follow diligently. . Nothing good happened to them and so they have no qualms to break the law.

    I think its a mix of the iron fist and inspiration (and a whole damn lot of humor) that will make Filipinos unite behind their leader. Maybe many see something good coming out to unite behind Digong. God bless our country!

  14. karlgarcia says:

    extending the expiration of driver’s license,passport and birth certificate is welcome news.

    • chempo says:

      Why is there an expiration date on birth certificates?

      • karlgarcia says:

        I would not know why the National Statistics office put a six month validity on every NSO certified birth certificate.Weird.

        • karlgarcia says:

          i must have have misunderstood DBM secretary Diokno,and I was surprised to hear about it a few hours ago.

        • LG says:

          It keeps the NSO office workers paid on renewals alone! Pity those who have to submit NSO BCs every 6 months for job applications.

        • Ultimate observer says:

          Maybe a certified copy is valid for 6 months…not the actual certificate. The dishonest makes life harder for the honest.

    • LG says:

      Nbi clearance, too. But not necessarily a good idea to extend. L

      Birth certificate? How did it get an expiration date, in the first place?

      • Joe America says:

        I’d like to see NBI clearances done away with and trust in one’s personal signature, with appropriate punishment for deceit/fraud, used instead. The police/NBI should be investigating criminals, not harassing non-criminals. Clearly, it doesn’t work at reducing crime, this massive screening of citizens.

        • LG says:

          I was thinking of domestic helpers who steal and/or abuse, then leaves, hopping from one home to another not to work but to hunt. Sadly, only manpower or placement agencies require NBI clearance from their pool of applicants.

          It seems easy enough for a help hired from a placement agency to leave an employer anytime and get directly hired from then on. It’s not customary for most direct hirers to ask for such clearance. It is assumed they are trustworthy. If not, there is little recourse to retrieve what was stolen. I understand a local police clearance report positive for crime is only good locally, not nationally.

          So many anecdotes on ‘maids’ who steal and abuse, then leaves without a trace. Such may be small time roving criminals disguised as maid applicants.

          • Joe America says:

            It is important to certify the legitimacy of domestic helpers, but that job should fall to the employer, not government, I think.

            • karlgarcia says:

              For employers other than the household,their company can do background checks because of resources.But for every household to hire a Private detective just for a background check…..why not? soon that would be the next big thing. Private investigators,pay only what you can afford.

  15. karlgarcia says:

    From yahoo answers.i read one answer ..if for immigration purposes,it would be six months.
    but as to why,I still don’t know.

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