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by Xave Gregorio

Several senators have come forward to support President Rodrigo Duterte’s declaration that he is indeed a dictator.

Senate Majority Leader Tito Sotto, citing “experts” in an interview with radio station DWIZ Saturday (February 10), said the Philippines needs a “benevolent dictator” like Duterte.

“Sa tigas ng ulo ng Pilipino, dapat talaga may diktador dito sa atin,” said Sotto, who is one of the composers of a song about the 1986 People Power Revolution which toppled the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos.

Senator Cynthia Villar, also part of the Senate majority, also said in an interview with DWIZ that a strict leader like Duterte is necessary.

“Maraming tao na pasaway, so minsan, para sumunod sa batas kailangan mahigpit ka,” Villar said.

Senate President Koko Pimentel, whose father Nene Pimentel was a staunch critic of the Marcos regime, gave his stamp of approval for Duterte’s “dictatorship,” dismissing it as merely his “style” of leadership.

However, Pimentel, who is also president of ruling party PDP-Laban, said the so-called dictatorship of Duterte should be limited to the executive branch only.

Senator Ping Lacson echoed Pimentel’s statement, saying in a text message to reporters that Duterte “might be referring to his style of leadership towards his subalterns in the executive.”

“If I were a leader of men as I was when I was still with the police service, it pays to adopt that leadership style, to the point of being a dictator when dealing with shenanigans in the government bureaucracy,” said Lacson, who was once a police chief.

Lacson underscored, however, that “there is no dictatorship prevailing in the country” and that the President might just be “exaggerating.”

Sotto also said Duterte’s admission that he is a dictator might only refer to his decisiveness as a leader, and does not mean that he wields absolute power.

“Kung totoong diktador na walang kalayaan, eh bakit ang daming nagmumura? Kami, minumura kami. Eh ‘di sarado sana ang Internet na ‘yan kung diktador talaga si Duterte,” Sotto said.

For Villar, Duterte was merely underscoring the “strict implementation of the law” when he told former rebels in a meeting in Malacañang that he is a dictator and that dictatorship is necessary for the country to progress.

Senator Kiko Pangilinan, a member of the Senate minority and Liberal Party president, also dismissed Duterte’s admission to being a dictator, saying that he might just be joking.

Only opposition Senator Bam Aquino is not taking Duterte’s “dictatorship” sitting down, saying the Philippines does not need a dictator.

“We don’t need a dictator. Instead, we need a leader who has the ability and genuine concern for the entire country, especially the poorest of Filipinos,” Aquino said.