In between the expletives and taboo words that Rodrigo Duterte has said over his tenure as the most powerful man in the country, there is a phrase that is worth noting not because of its profanity, but because it indicates so much about the President’s personality.
“I have no choice.”
Those four words have cropped up in at least five of his speeches, and almost always in the context of making political decisions. It’s a phrase you would not expect to hear from a leader, especially on issues between life and death, between peace and violence, even between democracy and martial rule.
In May last year, Duterte decided to declare martial law in Mindanao as soldiers and terrorists fight for the city of Marawi. He said in a visit to Iligan City, “I hope [at] the soonest time, you will find a new heart to forgive my soldiers, the government, even me for declaring martial law. I did not have any choice. They are destroying Marawi.”
That declaration was later extended to last a year.
When the president decided to bring the participation of the Philippine National Police back to the drug war despite records of brutality, mishandling of evidence, and even murder, he reasoned that he has no choice, as drug-related cases continue to worsen with the absence of the agency.
The order stood, mightily–even though evidence pointed to the police force killing a Korean businessman named Jee Ick-joo inside its headquarters, even when a CCTV footage showed policemen carrying the lifeless body of a Kian delos Santos, 17-year-old boy, who would eventually become the eventual poster boy of the war on drugs.
Most recently, the outspoken 73-year-old has implied the same reasoning in obeying government officials. He said, “even if you choose a son of a b**** president, if he is chosen by the people, we can’t do anything. We’ll just bear it and obey him.”
All this almost sounds like an act of surrender to what is inevitable. It’s as if things were bound to happen the way they did.
Is it really possible for a person to run out of possibilities, moreso, for a leader to believe that there is such a thing as choicelessness?