In school, we were taught that "necessity is the mother of invention". Simply put, it is man's need that drives and motivates him to satisfy that need so that he lives with ease and free from discomfort. All this time, it sounds very much a cliche, but sometimes man's own quest for gratification leads him onto perilous grounds, going as far as doing away society's norms - if it means obtaining the very things that ensure he lives by his own terms.
Strange because we do not talk here of conventional remedies for society's ills to ensure our survival, but we talk of people of every demographic on a national scale, synonymously and loudly calling for long-held moral traditions be stamped out in favor of thuggery-driven leadership so that we as a people are guaranteed survival. Ambiguity aside, this article is not in any way a complete departure from our usual posts as we will be talking about politics in a Philippine setting in a Christian's perspective.
The Rodrigo Duterte phenomenon
In recent weeks, this has become an eye-popping revelation that could turn one's sanity into cerebral paralysis for us not being able to find logical and moral rationale why society descends into this low by favoring violence as an answer to violence. For Christians who happen to be politically savvy, this is worth a topic especially when biblical tenets cross path with one's own secular leanings.
In a battle for mainstream media fodder, Donald Trump surely wins hands down on account of his proposal that Muslims in general, be banned from entering America until its leaders get to figure out what's wrong with their immigration policies. But we won't go further than that as our focus centers on the Philippines' own controversial presidentiable Rodrigo Duterte, who in his own right is as equally as controversial if not the most controversial political figure to have burst into the local political scene in recent memory.
National consensus shows that Duterte is highly favored to win the presidency. Survey results aside, his popularity across all social classes cannot be denied if social media pulse is anything to go by, and we've heard and seen how passionate his supporters are. Social media platforms dominate pro-Duterte conversations as if they're heralding the long-awaited messiah peeking at the door with all the celestial bonanza at his disposal. On the contrary, if you have the audacity to assert your thoughts against popular opinions - before you realize it you already found yourself laboriously pleading for a return to a civilized discourse as his self-declared keyboard warriors have already classified you a lamebrain thus a worthy recipient of all sorts of cussing imaginable.
Rodrigo Duterte and his famed Davao Death Squad
To many frustrated and disgruntled Filipino citizens, Duterte is the "messiah-in-waiting" who they believe would save them from their endless woes. Digong, as he is fondly called has been credited for turning the city of Davao around from one of the most criminal-infested cities in the country into one of the safest cities (allegedly) in the world. His supporters claim that Duterte's reign as mayor of the city for almost three decades has resulted in their city being "crime-free" and corruption in the government is almost non-existent. Most people in Davao city themselves are proud of their city's achievements due to the efficient and iron-fisted leadership of their mayor. As a matter of fact, the city has been a perennial awardee for good governance and efficiency.
On the surface, Davao city should be a model for every local government unit to be emulated anywhere. But the manner by which its reputation was achieved is where human rights advocates have got an issue. It is an open book not only in Davao city but the entire nation as well that there exists a so-called Davao Death Squad (DDS) a vigilante group that serves as the implementing arm of Mayor Duterte's program to purge the city of "criminals" so that the peace-loving majority is ensured of its safety. Revised estimates have it that deaths carried out by this vigilante group range from 1200 to 1700 since the second term of the mayor in 1998. All these cases of summary executions were either unsolved or brought to oblivion as it is widely believed the executioners are either members of the police force or some paid individuals who have received training to carry out the killings. It is also important to note that while the mayor brags about low criminality in his city due to his famed DDS, the majority of those "criminals" whose lives have been snuffed out from them prematurely were either petty criminals some of them out-of-school youth living in the slum areas.
Despite his well-known persona as a rifle-brandishing mayor and a self-confessed murderer, Duterte commands respect and fear from his constituents. He is even well-loved by the majority of them who sincerely vouch that their city is one of the safest on the planet. (But the same could not be coaxed into confessing that even petty criminals are being subjected to summary execution to ensure zero criminality for as long as the city's crime-free reputation is not jeopardized.)
Being foul-mouthed and a philanderer now passed off as charisma and machismo
Mayor Duterte makes no apologies for showering expletives in his interviews. Watching him on television makes you cringe at the frequencies of bleeps that it requires instantaneous brushing up of one's skills set so that you won't lost track of what he is saying. He cusses indiscriminately that he makes no distinction between a political opponent and a pope. His supporters call it unparalleled charisma and brutal honesty very few in the universe can match. Typically, Filipinos love their heroes at face value - no pretenses - one whose kinship to a ghettoish behavior is believable and not encumbered with hidden baggage associated with most politicians.
If a typical politician is outed to have more than one wife and a beeline of mistresses, that could pretty much spell his doom, but Duterte is dubbed a political genius for nothing, he projects himself as an antithesis to anything morality epitomizes. Except for the squeamish minority, one can easily digest why the euphoria and loud cheers when he admitted on national television that he's got two wives and maintains two mistresses apart from random women who flirtatiously elbow their way for his attention. It has also become a common sight wherever he goes of women randomly coming up to him and routinely offering their cheeks or lips so that he's not deprived of his self-proclaimed fetish. And so the common people cannot be denied of entertainment and they love him even more.
It's a known fact that the Filipino culture has its endemicities deeply derived from a great sense of pride and nationalism. Our passion coupled with a combative attitude is something that does not go easily unnoticed in just about every conversation when at stake is the Filipino pride. We are a very sentimental and assertive people that could spontaneously initiate warfare if only to defend our own belief system. In every cause that we believe in, we don't hesitate to banner our bravery just to drive a point.
As a people, our stakes are high to the goody-two-shoes label that the title "the only predominantly Christian nation in Asia" is a patented slap-to-the-face to whichever nation attempts to share or challenge this accolade. We don't hesitate to educate our doubters that we are the bedrock of Christianity, and along with it comes every virtue we think we have the monopoly of. There is no denying, we Filipinos in general, are very spiritual people on the basis of our religiosity. [When you have the rest of the world in utter envy (read disdain) at us for having so many of our own, living and departed, claiming to be the "incarnate son of God" - speaks volumes about our spirituality and our tendencies to incorporate God in our way of life.]
When social media was abuzz with yet another Duterte heroism when he allegedly forced a smoker to swallow a cigarette butt for disobeying a smoking ban, most of us cheered the mayor and demanded we want the same style of discipline enforced in our localities. Every time we see criminals on television such as drug pushers, snatchers, carnappers, kidnappers, and a host of menace in society being dragged into jail, inexplicably the Christian in us wanted them outrightly decimated and banished from the face of the earth. Our disdain for these criminals who wanted a fast-track to a good life at the expense of their hapless victims becomes our convenient excuse to validate a belief that thugs and lowlifes deserve no mercy.
As a nation, we've probably come to the point that we conclude enough is enough. We think our government is corrupt, that our president though a noted graft buster and anti-corrupt - lacks empathy for us ordinary citizens. That despite the country's current tag as an economic miracle a proof of his hard work, we still argue that he failed to deliver the goods. Additionally, we are not impressed with a type of leader who's too prim and proper that we decided he's a total disconnect from the poor. We label that type elitist. Our disdain for him and his inept subordinates forces us to think that they are the reasons for all our woes. Worst, our attitude says that we don't give a damn if our leader is above the law for as long as he sees to it the nation is bereft of criminals so that the over 110 million of us live in peace and security.
Wild fantasies as by-product of false hopes
This early, we started to fantasize that our future as a nation has been sealed under a Duterte presidency. And this is where our fantasies brought us: that each morning we wake up to, we get thrilled to witness a lovely sight - of police having their hands full collecting dead bodies of suspected criminals, thanks to an executive prerogative to double up on ridding the country of criminals and curbing population at their expense. Because this is what we expected of Duterte there is no doubt in our mind that surely he will deliver the goods. We're so brainwashed to believe that his formula in making Davao a peaceful city is the best remedy for our woe-infested country that we badly want him president. We care less if it's all about annihilating bad people as long as we the "good" people get to live in safety and comfort.
When we heard Mayor Duterte has purged Davao City of "bad people" and its residents self-deployed en masse in social media so that we covet the quasi-utopia in their city, our response was a chorus of indignation at our government for its failure to deliver a crime-free and corruption-free society that Davao has long attained. The rage in us even breached celestial limits when the social paranoia brought about by the "Laglag-Bala" scheme proved to be the last straw to provoke every Filipino into dissent and righteous indignation. We then did not hold back sending the vilest of curses to our president and his subordinates for allowing such barbaric practice to thrive at the expense of us poor OFWs as if it was his brainchild and of his ilks. We tantalizingly came close to labeling the president and his administration the plagues sent from the abyss to torture us day and night that we wanted them banished from the face of the earth.
On Facebook, we were hypnotized by his battle cry saying, "I don't care if I live in hell as long as my people live in paradise". Its message so powerful that we simply melted in utter surrender sending us into orgasmic euphoria that we're so convinced finally, change is coming. The pleasure it gives us causes us to dream on and so we refused to stop dreaming because to us the messiah has come - armed with a "double-edged sword" and clad with a "cloak of righteousness" - with his harem in tow and a mouthful of expletives to spew - so that his every speech being blared live doesn't get to our homes in real time to see to it the young ones are spared from the virulent fruits of his tongue.
We are so peeved by our leaders' ineptitude and apathy that we are convinced only a Duterte presidency can restore our hope as a nation, at least according to the seers in us. Imagine no more corruption, no more apathetic pieces of trash in the government, and no more hellish traffic in EDSA. The hope that we have in Duterte forces us to assert that every demand of ours will be handed to us in a silver platter. That sooner the LRT and MRT will be touted as the best in Asia next only to Japan's bullet train system. That remnants of Laglag Bala gang will have bullets for their meals, and we're excited to see that on tv. That there will be no more phone snatchers, rapists, pushers, Akyat-Bahay, and so on and so forth. And no more carnappers, no more cars beating the red light, maybe just a few jaywalkers to apprehend to make it appear prison cells still host undesirables.
Our delusion already got the better of us because we are already sold out to the messianic message Duterte has fed us. That delusion even brought us to our wildest fantasy yet that the Philippines could stake its claim to be the next Singapore if ruled by an iron fist. History tells us discipline and iron-fisted leadership made Singapore what it is today, and we can easily smell the resemblance in a Duterte's presidency. Just there is one problem: last time we checked, Singapore did not implement summary executions of their "bad people".
Duterte candidacy exposes Christianity's shallow foundation
It's humanly understandable for people who don't know God to fall for false hopes in a leader whose message of change resonates with them. We've seen that very clearly in people's misplaced hope in Barack Obama's "messianic advent", and eight years later they're still stuck in that same quagmire of hopelessness beyond their mend. But for people who profess to be Christians and falling for such a trap by putting their hopes in a man who shows not one bit of traits every Christian should look for in a leader - now that is really alarming.
One benefit of social media is that it helps us to seize up or gauge people's sentiments or views about almost every subject under the sun, and as a powerful platform it also guides us even into the innermost part of a person, as the Scripture says, "for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks" (Matthew 12:34). But for Christians especially pastors aggressively campaigning and using their influence over their flocks to endorse a candidate that publicly contradicts every Christian value is beyond stunning.
We don't say that we should completely lose our hope to rise up as a nation but as Christians, we are called to pray for our nation and our leaders and ask for discernment from God as to the best person who He would raise up to lead us. For the Scripture says, "...for there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God" (Romans 13:1). All authorities under heaven are ordained by God - they were allowed for a purpose. The beauty of democracy is that we have the unalienable rights to choose our leader, and by exercising that right to our advantage we can vet our choices as to who suits the kind of leader we want to lead us. But as Christians, our choices and actions should be anchored on God's word by which we are called to live by.
Carnality and self-preservation over godly aspiration
The people of Israel demanded prophet Samuel that God raise up a king to rule over them. God told Samuel to fulfill their request, not because their request was good or right but because God would teach Israel through this. Sometimes when we insist in getting what we want instead of praying for God's will in us, God will allow us to have it and then teach through it. God knew Israel would have a king, but He wanted to give the king in His timing and one who pleases Him. But because Israel demanded a king no matter the condition of his heart, God gave them what they wanted.
It's true, as Christians we also have our share of frustrations at the social perils that we have to put up with on a daily basis, but that does not necessarily allow us to override the purpose of God in our lives by making sure, in our capacity of carnal reasoning - that it's perfectly okay to have a leader who is a self-confessed unremorseful murderer, a proud philanderer, and a foul-mouthed gossip-mongering thug whose notoriety for his indecision rather than being firm is a hallmark of an unstable leader. Just like the people of Israel, they demanded a king instead of waiting for God's will and timing. But God said to Samuel, "they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me". God had a purpose in not giving Israel a king up to that point. It was because He did not want them to put an ungodly trust in the king instead of the Lord. In the end, God gave them a king whose heart was overwhelmed with pride, selfishness, and disobedience to the Lord - that would eventually lead to his downfall so that they only had themselves to blame.
Are we not seeing here the similarity? By our actions, we have completely eliminated God in the equation by trusting and putting our hopes in a man, in an ungodly man who publicly exalts himself as a demi-god by declaring "God would cry if he gets elected". We all know what he means by ridding the country of "bad people". He advocates shortcut to peace, a false peace that is. We cheered on him when he proposed Manila Bay be made a dumping ground for the lowlifes to fatten its inhabitants. Yes, our cheers are a token of approval that finally he will make things happen. Our streets will be safe again, no more criminals on the loose because we advocated for their premature demise, and then we can proudly say, "yes, I'm a Christian and I love the Lord". Really? It's just that He is the same Lord who is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish but everyone to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9).
If anything, Rodrigo Duterte is a setup. His popularity cannot be denied and a lot of Christians have fallen for his charisma and message of change. A known pastor in a local community that boasts hundreds of members is tirelessly glorifying Duterte on Facebook and even banners a shoutout that says, "this is my beloved president, please campaign for him for change is coming", to which one of his members commented, "he is my future". (Now that's the biggest myth ever told, and coming from a supposed Christian's point of view.)
And if you're a modern-day Christian and perhaps a pastor for 20 years, or maybe an over-worked elder who's preoccupied with recruiting members into your growing congregation, we think it's about time you acquaint yourselves and your members about the book of Revelation. It's not really helping a lot that your Bible studies and sermons revolve around Jeremiah 29:11(which you love to take out of context) and Matthew 7:7. Sometimes it pays that your congregation is also familiar with the terms like Anti-Christ, son of perdition, false peace, the abomination of desolation, 666, Laodicean church and most importantly the Blessed Hope.
Misplaced hope in man borders the sin of idolatry
So many of us Christians think change is coming, genuine peace is achievable and prosperity is peeking at the horizon because we see it possible and we're confident Duterte will make good on his promises. That is exactly what God had told Samuel about an "ungodly trust on a king" that He did not want His people Israel to have on any man. He wanted us to trust Him because He is God and not man. Psalms 118:8 says, "it's better to trust in God than to have confidence in man." The world does not give us peace, but God gives us peace that surpasses all understanding. "The world passes away and the lust thereof, but he that does the will of God abides forever"(1 John 2:17) Jesus is our only hope and that hope is anchored on His promise when He returns. Man will always fail us but if we seek the Lord and His will He will never fail us.
Have we come across yet the prophecies of Paul he wrote to Timothy that in the last days people will be lovers of themselves and the love of many shall wax cold? (2 Timothy 3:1-5) Don't be stunned! We ourselves are the fulfillment of this prophecy. We are so head-over-heels with ourselves that we want decimated those who pose as threats to our happy existence. And before we know it our love for our fellow human beings have waxed cold, well, except maybe for those who we deem lovable. The Scripture says when we agree or tolerate sin in our midst we have become partakers of them.
We seem to forget that a godless society will never be devoid of corruption, lying, cheating, killing, bribery and all sorts of moral decay because people operate in the flesh and God is not present in the works of unrighteousness. We have been blinded by our ungodly adoration for a man whose promises are ethereal music to our ears but whose heart hosts the very things that God detests:
These six things does the LORD hate: yes, seven are an abomination to him: A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood. An heart that devises wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief,A false witness that speaks lies, and he that sows discord among brothers. (Proverbs 6:16-19 KJV)
The greatest sin in the Bible by far is the sin of idolatry. Idolatry is the main reason why God rebuked and judged the nation of Israel. It is when we put something or someone first in our life before the true living God. We may not actually or knowingly intend to do that but when we put our trust and hope in a man to be our future, that is idolatry. Worse, instead of praying for God's will for our nation that He would raise up a God-fearing leader, we lead our flocks into the pitfall of trusting and putting our hopes in an ungodly man. Remember, God does not take lightly the sin of idolatry and He will in no way be pleased. Remember Israel had wanted a king instead of God to reign over them. God had warned them of the consequences of wanting an unrighteous man to rule them. In the end, God gave them what they wanted and it was not what they had hoped for. And as the saying goes, "be careful of what you wish for."