Duterte Stratagems

(The Philippines has never had a more cunning politician for president than Rodrigo Duterte. The former mayor of Davao has displayed and continues to display political wit I’ve never seen in National Politics before. Breaking them down in the tradition of the Classical Chinese war treaties, I present some of them here. I will continue to develop this post as I observe more tactical moves from Digong!)

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  •  Play the game as transparently as you can, no matter how ruthless. It projects a realpolitik prudence, sending the message that you mean business. Pretending to be principled is overrated.

 

  • Do not come into a race as a main force. Let the main forces battle each other out first and destroy each other. When both sides are politically bruised, storm in suddenly like thunder as an outsider and offer a fresh, vigorous alternative.

 

  • Delay filing your candidacy, then use an obscure electoral rule to file it after the deadline. The mass media, brainlessly hungry for a sensational story, will lap up the novelty and give you free publicity.

 

  • Do not start a fight, most Filipino politicians have been stupid enough to mistake Western confrontational politics as a superior political tactic. Let your opponents commit this mistake, that way you can present yourself as the provoked peace lover. Remember how the Ming Emperor Yongle gained legitimacy to oust his nephew.

 

  • When fighting a presently powerful force beyond your own strength, boost your own standing by siding with its enemies, present and past. Unchain enthralled dragons if you think you can control them,  reopen old wounds and offer opportunities for vindication.

 

  • Side with politically wounded forces. They will lend all their remaining strength to you. If they turn against you, they won’t be difficult to destroy. Do not side with a force who can overpower you.

 

  • Steal your political opponents’ ideas. When playing the game in a disillusioned politics, capitalize on executive will rather than on grand visions and plans. Plus it will be hard for your opponents to contradict their own ideology.

 

  • Drop the moral ascendancy. It is more difficult to criticize someone who admits his own faults.

 

  • Nothing destroys a saint more than exposing a hidden sin: If an opponent’s credibility is founded on moral ascendancy, unravel it by releasing a sex scandal or anything that will reveal immorality.

 

  • Magnanimity is also an offensive tactic. When you know you have International backing in a dispute, don’t pick a fight with the other side. The International backing can serve as a trump card in case you need to go on diplomatic offensive.

 

  • Exploit the rivalry of two bullies for your own gain. Let them vie for your approval in spite of your weakness compared to them.

 

  • Let the pot leak to see the cracks: To establish a connection between an opponent and a suspected violator of the law, give confidential information to the said suspect. Wait for your opponent to reveal her links with him with a vanity press conference.

 

  • Use opportunity as a weapon: If you are in position to give a post to your opponent, give her something either incredibly demanding, or something beyond her field of expertise, preferably both. Put pressure on her by tying her success up with peoples’ hopes – if she fails she will be hated. Capitalize on her failure by replacing her with an ally who can handle the task.

 

  • To silence a consistently and vocally critical minority, offer them power for the first time. They will be staging rallies for you in gratitude. If they succeed you take the credit, if they fail you can blame them for it.

 

  • Belittle an opponent’s importance by only dealing with her in informal terms, such as text messaging. Make such informal dealings publicly visible for maximum humiliation on her part.

 

  • Discredit the media. They will not be reliable allies anyway, you might as well de-fang them. Exploit the growing irrelevance of mainstream media outlets to your benefit. Use informal spokespersons to let out information you cannot release officially.

 

  •  If you can’t unseat a position-holder, hold her agency in hostage by isolating her or dangling the sword of budgets cuts over her head. Fight with the purse. But be careful not to alienate the whole agency, make them blame her and not you.

 

  • Do something controversial. Let the populace stage protests against it. Manage these protests efficiently to demonstrate tolerance and good governance.

 

  • Steal the opponent’s arrows and use to fight, or at least as firewood: Let the mass media portray you as a psychopathic monster with a machinery for extrajudicial killings, then use that image to scare local government officials into getting their acts right.
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