It is a long time since this country has witnessed a spectacle such as this. People will be talking about it for a long time. Public opinion will almost certainly be divided between those who would condemn the mayor, herself a lawyer, for placing herself above the law, and those who would praise her for not hesitating to take responsibility in a messy situation in order to restore the peace and avoid further injustice. The debate will pit people who understand the need for a strong godfather-like leadership in a society where the legitimacy of legal institutions is not secure, against those who would insist on the unconditional professionalization of governance.
From a strictly sociological standpoint, one can only stand in awe of the contradictions that are highlighted by this incident. Where you have a highly unequal society, the rule of law cannot be impartial. Its blind implementation will always appear harsh. Thus, instead of serving the ends of justice, law is perceived as one more tool of oppression. This uneven landscape creates ample room for the intervention of heroic equalizers. Instead of fading away in the transition, feudal leaders who can play this role extend their life span.
You cannot force modernity merely by adopting its institutional forms. The conditions that enable these institutions to work have to be there: universal education, economic sufficiency, access to all occupations, etc. These are evolutionary achievements that may be hastened but never conjured from nothing.
In this difficult transition, there is an interesting role for scions of the old power elite who inherit the mantle of leadership from their ancestors. Brought up in the traditional ways of feudal authority, but no less exposed to the norms of modern professional leadership, they can either be the rearguard of a dying feudal system or the harbingers of a new less personal form of rule. Young leaders like Sara Duterte are precisely at this crossroad.
To become agents of the modern, they need to think of their feudal birthright as no more than a ladder they need to climb to the top, which they must gradually discard as their constituencies become empowered to fight for their own rights. This is not an easy thing to do. In a society where institutions are weak, such leaders often need to repeatedly validate their personal authority in the traditional way before they can begin to use it to give birth to the new. I want to think that Sara Duterte is this kind of leader, and not just another goon.
(repost from) Ernie Abella