Blog: MODERN DAY PRESIDENTS AND KINGS OF OLD

Oswald Magno

They don’t wear crowns, but modern day presidents are no different than the kings of old. So let us not be surprised if they often behave or act like kings.

Donald Trump easily comes to mind as someone who has behaved like a king ever since he was elected as US president in 2016. As might be expected, his reputed wealth and status as a billionaire contributed to the crude, domineering and ostentatious manner in which he conducted himself during his single term in office.

Another persona that comes to mind is Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines, who ascended to the highest and most powerful position in the land from his lowly position as Davao City mayor in 2016. Since being elected, Duterte has been nothing short of a classic feudal warlord against whose wishes practically no one in officialdom had courage to stand in the way.

Aside from their exhibited personal conduct, there are many indicators that tell us modern day presidents are no different than the kings of old.

Consider:

1. Presidents govern from palaces or other similar imposing edifices that fit or evoke the aura and power of royalty

Malacanang Palace, where Philippine Presidents hold court. (Wikipedia)

2. They have security detail that is equivalent to a small army

3. They take places of the highest honor at national events as a matter of entitlement, right or protocol

4. They are vested with so much power that translates to or can only be equated with one-man rule

5. On their own, they can issue decrees that have the force of law

6. They must approve legislation passed by the people’s representatives to become law and can over-rule the will of the representatives of the people with their veto power

7. They have the ability to corrupt the people’s representatives through bribery, threats, intimidation, blackmail, patronage and distribution of largesse

8. They can use departments, agencies and instrumentalities under their control to suppress the press, silence critics, persecute rebellious citizens or otherwise stifle their freedoms 

9. They can wage war, enter into dubious alliances with foreign powers and whimsically disregard existing treaties

10. They are virtually immune from prosecution while they possess their mantle of power

11. People look at them not as public servants but as demi-Gods to be worshipped

12. They are placed in sole command of the country’s armed forces

13. They cannot be summoned to appear before the people’s representatives to explain or account for their actions

14. They can flout the laws and become virtually unaccountable by having minions in a people’s chamber called the Senate, and

15. They can perpetuate their dynastic hold on power by preparing their scions to take their place when their term is over.

Based on the above, there are good reasons to think of presidential systems as essentially monarchical systems, only one step away from absolutism or despotism.

The question for Filipinos to ponder is whether or not to carry on with this system as their form of governance or shift to a system that is more collegial, accountable and transparent such as the parliamentary system.

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