Revolutionary government?

by Jose Ma. Montelibano

So much talk about a revolutionary government, so many individuals and groups proposing to set up their core teams around the country. The leadership must be serious.

A revolutionary government is not as alien, or scary, as it sounds. The form of revolution today is not as crude or violent as it used to be. At least, in the Philippines. After all, the Communist rebellion of more than 50 years has given us glimpses of what works and what will not – ever. At the same time, the Muslim secessionist struggle, bloody as it had been, also serves as a warning to present and future leadership that violent means are short-lived and will not find sustained support. In other words, large swathes of the population have experienced the radically violent. Not alien, not acceptable, not sustainable.

What motives drive the Duterte administration to push the revolutionary government? I am sure there are positive ones that can be openly discussed and debated. I am just as sure that there are hidden motives as well. For as long as the move is towards the consolidation of power instead of empowering a greater number, there will always be the darker, more secretive part. Though every adult Juan de la Crus can smell it, there are few brave souls out there who will openly admit, “I want power!” I wonder what makes it so difficult for them to come out and say they want power?

And with power comes wealth, and the other way around. So, what else is new? In a society that has long surrendered much of its time-honored values for power and wealth, so much so that those who possess these are magnificently awarded (sometimes, at their own initiative expense), what we need is just more self-honesty. If we can recognize and admit our own attraction, fatal or not, to power and wealth, then we can more objectively discuss the various alternatives on the table. However, the problem is that those who are deeply desirous of power and wealth try so much to cover their agenda with verbal and written expressions of nobility, patriotism, and principles. They forget. or believe, they can defy the law of body language and the truism that actions speak louder than words.

The most serious challenge for democracy is to democratize wealth or equitable access to, and opportunity for, wealth. Wealth and power are inseparable when they are elitist or reserved only for a few. But democratized wealth is a firm ground for democratizing power as both empower the greater number instead of a chosen few. What will a Duterte revolutionary government do? What direction does it intend to push? Power and wealth for a few or the democratization of both via a very centralized methodology? Is that possible? Or is that an oxymoron?

While I do hear talks from the ground about the desire of the Duterte presidency to establish a revolutionary government, I must admit it is only because I have many people from many provinces telling me about moves to recruit core groups to push a revolutionary form of government. In other words, the marching orders from President Duterte have not been openly given, if it will publicly come at all. The recruiters are all claiming that the President wants the revolutionary government yet the principal himself has not announced a formal drive for his officers and core followers to push the initiative. It seems that the movement towards a revolutionary government has a big “IF”, if there is enough public support for it, or there will not be a strong resistance to it.

I have also been told that the moves to recruit some community leaders come with a promise of an appointment to positions in the barangay. The postponement of the barangay elections is being pointed out as proof that there is an intent to appoint instead of elect new sets of barangay officials. This promised appointment for those who will actively push for the establishment of the revolutionary government is the carrot for core group members. More carrots are promised, of course, especially some pecuniary compensation. While offering carrots is a natural political strategy, it is also staining the purity of the motive.

Public debates about a revolutionary government and defining its purposes and parameters are a more noble methodology of recruitment. But then again, who likes to admit before the people that they want wealth and power with less law to restrict them? Or, who will be believed when they publicly say they want power but not wealth? The personalities and the character of recruiters from the national to the local communities will define the purity of principles involved or the lack of them. After all, unprincipled people cannot be the drivers of a noble movement.

What can actually happen is that leaders who are hungry for a revolutionary government may simply gamble that they can get away with it even if they are not so credible or their intentions are not so pure. They may read the Filipino people as more docile than demanding, more pliant than insistent, or more prepared to compromise their values for some promise. They must have some basis for reading the people so, especially their constituents who are perpetually lining up for favors, for money or for jobs. But they may be wrong, too, and misread the people badly enough to cause social and political turmoil.

The key remains to be President Duterte himself. Power emanates from the presidency and the President. And wealth bows to power when the President is charismatic and strong-willed until the holders of wealth feel threatened that their wealth will be taken away from them. It is President Duterte himself, and maybe himself alone, who has credibility with most Filipinos. It is he who must sell the idea of a revolutionary government. Furthermore, he must promise the people that the leaders he will appoint will not abuse the unrestricted power of that form of government. Can he? Will he?


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