Sunday, December 18, 2016

Rodrigo Roa Duterte: Under a Socialist Lens

Duterte claims the "Left" will die for him.
Where did he get that idea, when he is not even a true
Socialist? 
Philippine president Rodrigo Roa Duterte is fond of claiming to be the only president elected from among the poor classes. By harping his "proletarian roots", Duterte claims to be speaking on behalf of the poor and destitute among the socio-economic classes of Philippine society.

Before we go on an in-depth analysis of Duterte, let me just address this claim--Duterte does not belong to the poor, the very same way, former president Joseph Estrada had claimed before that he also was born poor. Both gentlemen--who rode on the rising tide of populism to power---are members of the professional classes who sprung from the capitalist system. Their familial roots can be traced as those from families who are classified as a lower sub-stratum of the politico-socio-economic elite.

Duterte's grandfather was a Chinese immigrant who assumed the surname "Roa" out of deference to the lawyer who facilitated his immigrant status. The Roas became extremely wealthy while Rodrigo's father was a lawyer by profession and became a member of the political elite. Compared with Estrada's, Duterte's status is higher because his maternal and paternal lineages belonged to economically wealthy and politically influential families. Hence, I don't see anything near proletarian levels for this man.

Compared with his peers, yes, maybe Duterte is poorer than them. Duterte's friends include the Alcantaras, the Floreidos, the Lims, Cos and Yaps---economically dominant families from the South. These families had strong ties with China because they do business with Chinese firms. For decades, these families have tried to scale up the social ladder, something that is now dominated by Iberian-American-Chinese families of old.

Baratz and Grigsby define poverty as a "a severe lack of physical and mental well-being, closely associated with inadequate economic resources and consumption." Duterte never ever lacked anything material in his life, especially during those times when he was a student. He even claimed that he spent seven years in high school, a proud achievement for him, which he always says during his speeches. He probably thought that this claim is good, because majority of the poor in the Philippines did not reach college, and most are just high school graduates. But to say that this is an "inspiring thought" is overstretching it. Duterte became a Duterte not because he did not finish high school--he became one because he passed the bar, became a lawyer, and is influential enough, that friends allowed him to be a fiscal and eventually, was appointed public official and eventually elected mayor.

Duterte's actions and statements are laced with observations from "down below", according to several columnists and analysts. These views are those of a man who, for 22 years, had lorded over the politics and social life of Davaoenos, and for several years had a direct experience socializing with members of the provincial elites as well as the lumpen proletariat.

At best, we can call Duterte's thoughts as pseudo-Socialism---closer to the ideas of National Socialism rather than pure Socialism. Duterte's thoughts came from bits and pieces of his own personal take on Philippine reality, validated by the views of those whom he came into contact with, and are not entirely organized based on a purely Socialist framework.

One example is Duterte's belief on the non-rehabilitation of drug addicts. A "Socialist" Duterte would not want these drug addicts killed or exterminated. A "Socialist" Duterte would want their rehabilitation because every Socialist values human life. The only one who would probably advocate this kind of solution is Adolf Hitler, who had views of human reality using Aryan race lens. Thoughts of exterminating 4 million drug addicts and pushers remind one of the destructive tactics of the National Socialists under Hitler who thought of Jews as cattle, and were ready for systematic slaughter.

Duterte's predilection on Federalism does not, in any way, prove his "Socialist" self. Federalism is a governance model, which is essentially a modern version of Feudalism except that what is being distributed is power and resources. Analyzing Federalism, it is more of pseudo-socialism rather than distributive or managerial Socialism.

Yes, some countries adopt the Federal form while under the aegis of Communist or Socialist parties. However, one must closely observe that these countries did not adopt Socialist economies. Meaning, Socialism is not deeply rooted and is used only as a framework for politics and as the underlying policy for bureaucratic processes and systems.

Federalism is being promoted as a solution to poverty. Federalists say poverty exists because of underdevelopment. There are no outside investments because these areas lack the infrastructure necessary to encourage investments. There are no infrastructure because public funds go elsewhere, and are being controlled and manipulated by the Powers managing the central government.

By giving federated regions the power of the purse, many see this as the most efficient way of downloading the economic gains which are now centralised under Malacanan and its economic allies. By re-distributing power, from the center to different stated “Federal regions,” public funds can now be efficiently utilised, unlike now where funding projects go thru the national parliamentary which uses a very slow approval system. Federalists harp that locals know what the conditions are in their respective localities. Hence, there would be more efficient use of public resources.

Meaning, this setup will only bring back the power of determining projects to local politicians, which is “pork” or PDAF in a more legal and acceptable form. Under Federalism, it would now be acceptable for local politicians to determine what projects do they want implemented, how best to distribute these projects to economic and political allies and how best to keep economic gains for themselves and up to what extent the people would get from these public funds.

This strategy will not work because these "federated regions" will still be controlled by politico-economically dominant elites. Looking at the landscape right now, we find that local economies are controlled by political power centers. Politicians are themselves economic overlords or at best, agents of economically dominant families. Federalism will not change how wealth is being distributed. Conversely, it will even fully centralised wealth to a chosen few—those who lord it over the parliaments of federated states.

What Federalism would bring about is a re-invigorated set of elites who now would feed on public monies instead of private capital for their own personal wealth and gain. Instead of socializing power and resources, in Federalism, we will now create regions ruled by dominant powers who will use the police power of the Federated state to further tighten the chains of the proletariat classes, which will bring forth more isolation, destitution and alienation.

This will not even abolish the hold of economically dominant families who now own 56% of this country's resources. By Duterte's lead, this will just surely increase the power of his oligarchic friends who claim lordship over provincial lands and resources. Thru Federalism, Duterte's oligarchs will now get the capital (they would get it thru public funds since they would now dominate Federated states) to compete with the 40 or so families comprising the National Oligarchs.

Meaning---Federalism will be used as a brute weapon of the rural Oligarchs (most of them landlords and bureaucrat capitalists) against the Metro-based Oligarchs who have benefitted from the return to a neo-liberal environment. It will even bring about the return of traditional power centers who lost their wealth during the tumultuous dictatorship of Marcos.

Is this the Socialist framework we so aspire for? No.

We have a problem on poverty, which arises due to the flawed distribution of this country's resources. Why is there a warped distribution of resources? This is a manifestation of the domination of a few of the means of production. Since the means of production will not be socialized, expect profit to always be under the hold and control of a few.

Without changing the socio-economic and political landscape, federalizing the Philippines will not solve the poverty problem but would instead exacerbate it. Without changing property and ownership relations, poor families in Federated states will not have sufficient resources to improve their economic lives.

The fact is---by federalizing these regions; this will even lead to a de-prioritization of land reform because by Federal edict, the state parliament can surely pass a law not recognizing land reform. And there is also a question of the adoption of laws---how many civil rights stated in our Civil Code will be recognized? Surely, Federated states will have their own penal codes--how many of these crimes stated in our Revised Penal Code will still be "criminal"? How many executive orders and bills criminalizing certain acts like money laundering, land grabbing, and environmental laws would be adopted?

And with the further globalization of resources, expect intense competition between Duterte's elites ranged against those 40 or so families who now dominate the entire national economy. This will surely stunt the intended growth of this country affected by the never-ending competition for resources between and among these elites, leaving the rest of the Filipino people, holding an empty bag.

We would have a situation where several Federated states conform or have strong ties with stronger capitalist powers such as China or the United States while others are not. There would surely be a more blatant manifestation of socio-economic inequality, more severe than what we have right now.

So, then, realizing this, who is Duterte if a Socialist puts him under an analytical microscope?

Duterte is a true representative of his class.

Duterte is realizing his pseudo-Socialist thoughts based on his bourgeois existence. He is a true representative of his socio-economic class, and is their poster boy. Duterte serves the interests of the rural Oligarchs who are aiming to use state resources to keep in toe and in competition with the present set of dominant oligarchs. There is now a conscious attempt at using state funds for wealth generation. Look at the number of conglomerates formed by these elites and how many of these firms are now jacking for projects under the Private-Public Partnership (PPP)?

(This phenomenon is not something new. It was the dictator Marcos who thought of this when he declared Martial law in 1972. Marcos used state power in the hopes of dismantling the old oligarchs. He failed, because of his avarice. Marcos kept some traditional oligarchs, convinced them to partner with them, while those oligarchs who sided with the opposition, he destroyed.

In the middle of martial law, Marcos undertook an audacious enterprise---he used public monies for infrastructure development. Though a brilliant political strategist, Marcos was not as bright in economics. When public coffers went dry due to lack of economic activities, Marcos went to foreign banks for loans. Foreign and domestic loans thus sky rocketed.

When foreign funds went to government, it was then that Marcos thought of centralizing these resources and thus, was born the conjugal dictatorship. Afraid of resuscitating his political and now economic enemies, Marcos kept these monies within his own clique. Furthermore, Marcos carved the economy into enclaves for his chosen few, who now became rich and therefore, cemented their statuses as the new elites. While the old elites became rich thru their skillful manipulation of capital, this new set of elites became skillful in commissioning their way out of government projects, and using these monies to enrich themselves and fund their own enterprises. Thus, was born bureaucrat capitalists who used public positions for wealth generation)

His social consciousness is not at all Socialist because he does not have any idea of how to transform this country from its present Capitalist state into a Socialist state or at best, its National Democratic state. For many, this is actually the right time for this country to take hold of its History, and slowly transcend. How?

1. Creation and nationalization of industries
2. Socialization of property and ownership relations including genuine land reform
3. Defeat of traditional power centers thru categorization of them as counter-revolutionaries and sup plantation of them by Patriotic elements
4. Improvement of relations of production by managerial socialism
5. Improvement in state economic planning

The best that this country will ever get from a Duterte administration is an improvement in social services---palliatives undertaken by Capitalist states to tame the people and prevent social inequalities from breaking out into the open and lead to a revolutionary situation. However, peoples are slowly becoming socially conscious. Technology is now allowing people to have a firm and correct grasp of their realities. Thoughts, views and analyses, which were, in the past, kept inside the halls of libraries and academies, are now in the open and ready for consumption. Very soon, these views will influence 33 million Filipinos who are constantly online and these people would realize that the best option for them is launching an authentic revolution that would aim towards true transformation by a change in the ownership of the means of production.

Duterte does not have enough powers to prevent such a crisis from happening. Since the Philippine economy is fast integrating into the global Capitalist system, expect further the widening of wealth distribution between those who have and those who have not, leading to an eventual break. Right now, we are experiencing such a sign by the acts of the United States which, slowly yet surely, is doing something to weaken our economy. Next year, we will see more direct tactics to be employed by this Imperialist power, whose President-elect, is bent on reviving the glory of the United States as a global superpower.  By relying and without changing the way our economy is being managed, expect nothing to change soon.