Power and influence are not permanent. Only change is.
Heraclitus could not be wrong when he said “the only constant in life is change.”
Ferdinand Marcos, the late dictator, learned this the hard way when he was ousted in 1986 by a popular coup.
He controlled the Philippines for 21 years, a feat now matched by Russia’s Vladimir Putin and the less-known Ismaïl Omar Guelleh of Djibouti and Tuilaepa Aiono Sailele Malielegaoi or Samoa.
But theirs are not the longest.
Daniel Ortega is now in his 22nd as ruler of Nicaragua.
Alexander Lukashenko of Belarus and Paul Kagame of Rwanda are into their 26th.
And then the Top 10.
10. Isaias Afwerki of Eritrea — 27 years;
9. Emomali Rahmon of Tajikistan — 27 years;
8. Nursultan Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan — 27 years;
7. Idriss Déby of Chad — 29 years;
6. Yoweri Museveni of Uganda — 34 years;
5. Hun Sen of Cambodia — 35 years;
4. Denis Sassou Nguesso of the Republic of Congo — 36 years;
3. Ali Khamenei of Iran — 41 years;
2. Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo of Equatorial Guinea — 41 years; and the longest-reigning of them all
1. Paul Biya of Cameroon — 45 years.
These countries have never recovered from the internal strife that paved the way for these rulers’ rise. Most of them were men in uniform or are religious leaders with great influence over their subjects.
The Philippines has long recovered after Marcos. However, we view the past administrations from Cory to Noynoy, each and every past Filipino president has contributed to the protection of the country’s democratic gains. We need not be Cameroon or Congo.
Count President Rodrigo Duterte among them.
He has vowed that he won’t extend his rule. He will exit in 2022, dashing the hopes of a few of his followers to make him a revolutionary leader through a self-coup that is purportedly supported by the mass majority.
It won’t fly.
Duterte, however, has cast a long shadow over Philippine politics since his unexpected rise from Davao City.
His daughter, the current Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio, is seen as the heir apparent to all the political gains the elder Duterte has laid in front of her.
Another Duterte — Davao City Rep. Paolo Duterte — is making his presence felt at the House of Representatives, whose members are revolting against its Speaker, Alan Peter Cayetano.
Cayetano is now being accused by his peers as allegedly having cornered the largest chunks of the infrastructure budget for himself, his wife and his closest allies.
Paolo has not rolled his dice yet. But his recent statements indicate there would be changes in the House if it has not happened yet.
Sara has proven her mettle when she caused the last House coup when she anointed former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo as Speaker in 2018.
Paolo is being looked at as the force who could shake the House this time.
The elder Duterte need not stay longer than 2022. His daughter and son have come into their own.