What Was the Meaning of Duterte? (Fantasy and Normalized Emergency Post-EDSA)

  • Rizalino Noble Malabed


Several months into this return to a Marcos rule that we thought we had foresworn and forestalled, we are yet to grapple with the slaughters and plunders of the past Duterte administration. But this present worrisome political regime is precisely enabled by the previous fatal Duterte government. To understand this Marcos regime, then, we must clarify the meaning of Duterte’s rule with finality and demonstrate its place in the cycle of violence and corruption that is our politics. And so, we need to ask, what was/is the meaning of Duterte? To ask this question is to set aside the commonplace move of pointing to the obvious referent and thinking of the name “Duterte” as a sign. In this paper, we are particularly interested in the sign Duterte as indicating a coherent shared understanding and as a practical efficiency. As such, we examine two consistent meanings for Duterte: first, Duterte is the sign of the ideological deployment of middle-class fantasy, as both the bearer and the obscene means of our agency—borne of 1986 EDSA but subsequently lost. Second, Duterte is the name for thecontinuous experience of normalized emergency—specifically as state terror andmilitarized pandemic response.