Wenceslao: Back to decency

Bong O. Wenceslao
·3 min read

I WROTE this while listening to the CNN coverage of Democrat Joe Biden’s first speech after winning the presidency, ending Republican Donald Trump’s four-year rule as president of the United States of America. My wife, my sons and I followed the US elections with differing interests and understanding. We are, after all, close to that country not only because of history (we Filipinos once lived as a US colony) but also because many of our relatives already call that country “home.”

By the way, Biden’s vice president is Kamala Harris, the first woman and the first person of African-American descent to occupy that position. I also listened to her speech for the first time and could sense her depth. If she does things right, she might very well become the next president of the US. But that’s going ahead too far.

Of course, progressives see this as merely the US being the same dog having a different collar. Biden is not expected to introduce systemic change in the US. That country will still be dominated by monopoly capitalists who see the Philippines as a mere source of raw materials and a place to dump excess capital in. We will still be treated as a neo colony that could help advance US imperialist interest. Republican Trump or Democrat Biden. As wise guys would say, the difference is the same.

But what we are talking about is substance. The change, which is not subtle, is in the form. This represents the “shift” in public opinion that I tried to pick out during the counting of the votes in the US election. I was looking for a return to decency, which is essentially a return to bourgeois liberalism -- the environment that I partly fought to restore when the country fell into the dark abyss that was the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos.

Trump refused to concede but American democratic institutions and tradition are strong. The refusal to concede is in keeping with the kind of thinking that became prevalent everywhere and not just in the US. That wave allowed Rodrigo Duterte to defeat the bourgeois liberal Mar Roxas in the Philippines presidential elections in 2016. But that wave could really have waned with Biden’s win.

Which does not augur well for those who are targeting the Philippine presidency in 2022 using the Duterte template. It is, though, a good sign for the “dilawan” Leni Robredo, the country’s vice president in case you have forgotten. Robredo is currently the best ranked representative of bourgeois liberal thinking in the country.

Also, Biden is a Democrat and we know how Democrats adhered to bourgeois liberal principles like the defense of people’s rights, no matter how shallow that adherence maybe. For example, Democratic party politicians have spoken about the case of former justice secretary Leila de Lima, who is still in jail. How then would the Biden administration treat the Duterte government?

And how differently would a Biden administration treat the expansionist tendencies of state imperialist China, especially in the South China Sea? When another Democrat, Barack Obama, was president, the US policy was to give prime importance to containing China expansionism in the Pacific.