Who’s the frog?
By Joe America
We’ve had some discussion here about how the people of the Philippines are like a frog in a boiling pot, with the Duterte Administration playing with the gas dial to keep the temperature rising in a way that does not let the frog know he is cooking. So China has been eased into the PH seas and economy without objection, and communists have been welcomed into government, and the drug killings continue apace masked by semantic discussions as to whether they are EJK’s or criminal deeds, and the President continues to insult anyone of stature who would dare to differ with him about the drug program, and people laugh to make it okay.
Distractions are used to keep the frogs looking everywhere but at the steam rising from the pot: the jailing of Senator De Lima, attacks on Vice President Robredo, accusations toward President Aquino, and staged rallies to boost the popularity of the President. The PH sensationalist media eat this stuff up, as it grows circulation and they don’t have to pay for costly activities like research or investigative reports that might inject intelligence into the discussion. Gossip and slander are more fun than knowledge, after all. Who cares if Filipinos are ignorant?
But I’m wondering if is the people or the President playing the part of the frog. The Administration has placed a high priority on the manipulation and control of public perception, a leftover strategy from campaign days when a well-funded trolling operation set out to prey on gullible and uninformed Filipinos. But we see control unraveling a bit. Campaigning is different than governing, after all, so when the same bluster and promises take the place of real work, peculiar things happen. President Trump is showing this in America, and here in the Philippines, President Duterte is not exactly swimming in cool, calm water:
- Social media outlets Facebook and Twitter are working to end fake news, and so the Administration’s trolling program is under pressure. Plus, the communications gaffes and crass bluster by those who speak for the President are legend. And provide the fodder for robust social media attacks on him.
- The pro-Duterte rallies have been tepid affairs that do not demonstrate the mass enthusiasm that the trolls try to project. The rallies come across as poorly attended, contrived events, cheapening the Duterte brand and weakening his image as being wildly popular.
- The Secretary of Foreign Affairs did not get confirmed because he was an American who said he was not. A top spokesman was dumped when ridicule over his statements embarrassed the President. The DILG Secretary was fired. Several departments are pits of internal strife. The President is regularly corrected or contradicted by his cabinet secretaries.
- Trains break down regularly and transportation remains a mess. Immigration lines are long due to employment strife. Wang wang is back. Change seems to have produced change BACKWARD. It is not pretty, and calling it pretty undermines Admin credibility.
- The President was slammed with shouts of “treason” when he said it was okay for China to survey Benham Rise. Backpedaling is now being done by sending out ships out to patrol, and by possibly renaming the area “Philippine Rise”. Clearly, he got scalded on that episode.
- The peace initiative with armed communist groups is troubled as rebels continue to extort from businesses and shoot at AFP troops. Cease fires come and go and it is clear that Duterte does not have control of the rebels.
- House Speaker Alvarez is being bashed for his philandering outside of marriage . . . and hypocrisy, given his vicious attack on Senator De Lima. He remains in place to represent the Duterte congressional brand as unsavory at best, and morally bankrupt at worst.
- Senators are having apoplexy, caught in the middle between the favors received by supporting the President, and their conscience. They have been speaking more strongly for Constitutional due process and human rights. The challenges to President Duterte are becoming direct and harsh. Perhaps it was a mistake to remove the opposition from committee chairs. These frogs seem to bite.
- International human rights agencies and the European Union have the Philippines under a negative watch for withdrawal of aid, court actions, or sanctions. The President’s swearing suggests he is feeling heat from that. His buttons are easy to push, it would seem.
But the most damaging factor, it seems to me, is that NOTHING IS HAPPENING THAT WOULD BUILD the people’s trust and admiration. President Duterte is bogged down in his drug war, and the nastiness and darkness that accompanies it. Nothing fresh or uplifting is coming from the Administration.
Incidents of corruption are flowing freely, money is handled loosely for short-term gain, infrastructure projects are stalled, debt is rising, the peso is weakening, stocks are tipping on what seems to be a brink, and poverty and poor treatment of citizens continues.
One is inclined to wonder which pot will boil over first. If the people keep pressing the President, perhaps he will declare martial law to try to stop it. That in turn, may make the People’s pot explode.
Therein, we take note that there is a third frog in this overly warm reptilian pot.
It appears that, if the courts and Senate fall, only the AFP operates with the Constitution as the one authority recognized as higher than the President.
The AFP clearly does not like some of the President’s dealings, particularly with the thief that drove the Philippines off Scarborough and tried to blockade the Philippine rusty boat outpost so troops could not get food . . . and particularly with the NPA which continues to kill AFP troops. The President, for his part, tries to dial down the heat by promising to double salaries of the troops and visiting regularly with them to extol their virtues. I’m sure the top brass understand the manipulations they are receiving. I wonder if they welcome that approach or are insulted by it? It is not exactly an honor to be manipulated like a puppet rather than treated as professional warriors.
But, for sure, the AFP is in the pot, with the people.
Will top AFP brass climb out and leave the people behind, do you think?
I somehow don’t think they are that kind of frog, but I don’t really know.
All I know is that the heat is continuing to climb, and the President is doing nothing to stop it.