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Over the past few months, I have had the privilege of meeting and extensively interviewing among the most fascinating political figures, ranging from Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, National Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzna (twice) and former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to DILG Secretary Eduardo Ano, Senator Antonio Trillanes, and, of course, Justice Antonio Carpio, among other senior officials and statesmen.

Mind you: This doesn’t include off-cam exchanges with remarkable female leaders, including Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-Wen and Vice-President Leni Robredo; as well as my favorite contemporary Filipino president, Fidel Ramos. We are hoping to interview, among others, President Rodrigo Duterte in coming months, of course. In short, it has been few months of humbling encounters with remarkable persons across the political spectrum.

At the height of Nazi persecution of Jews, which led to the death of millions of innocent civilians and among Western civilization’s greatest souls, a legend reportedly emerged among the tortured occupants of ghastly concentration camps. The countless multitudes of emaciated and traumatized victims were told about the story of a defiant and courageous woman, who staunchly kept her dignity and poise amid all the surrounding darkness.

In this sense, there was room for a heroic, tragic struggle in play even in one of the darkest moments in history, which negated the very notion of humanity. She never let, even under the most impossible circumstances, the tortuous conditions of her immediate surroundings trample upon the inner coherence of her virtuous Being. She maintained the sparkling jewel of her humanity against the backdrop of inscrutable barbarism.

No one knows for sure whether she ever existed, but the astonishing legend of her heroic struggle kept the flame of hope defiantly kindling in the half-broken hearts of untold numbers of near-vitiated souls. The sheer consciousness of her existence, whether real or not, was sufficient enough to create a new inter-subjective reality of life-saving and soul-enriching aspirations.

Almost a century ago, Russian philosopher Ivan Ilyin argued that “patriotic arbitrariness” is essential to his country’s salvation under a visionary leader. For him, the upshot is a majestic kind of “redemptive excess”, a corrective overreaction, which will unshackle a beleaguered nation from its chronic challenges.

For Ilyn, a savior-leader, with arbitrary power, is the only way to place a break on the untrammeled degradation of his country, which underwent unspeakably tortuous upheavals in the early 20th century, as the tyranny of Czardom succumbed to communist totalitarianism (See Stephen Kotkin’s excellent book, Stalin: Paradoxes of Power).

Ilyn’s near contemporary, the Nazi jurist Carl Schmitt made a similar argument, whereby he argued in favor of a ‘state of exception’ under a supposedly enlightened dictatorship. “Sovereign is he who decides on the exception,” Schmitt maintained. For him, it’s the “exception” which “is more interesting than the rule,” since the rule “proves nothing; the exception proves everything. In the exception the power of real life breaks through the crust of a mechanism that has become torpid by repetition.”

Observing, with utmost horror, his country’s ghastly descent into fascism, Antonio Gramsci warned against “[a] common error in historico-political analysis,” namely the “inability to find the correct relation between what is organic and what is conjunctural.” In layman’s lexicon, we should distinguish between temporary, cyclical change, on one hand, and long-term, fundamental changes, on the other.

As I wrote in my book “The Rise of Duterte”, Rodrigo Roa Duterte’s rise to the presidency wasn’t just some freak accident. He is neither a Manchurian candidate, nor just a ‘protest vote’. At a more fundamental level, his rise, and continued popularity, is a reflection of the political zeitgeist that has gripped our nation.

As an authoritative study, entitled “The Signs of Deconsolidation” (published by the Journal of Democracy), shows, recent years saw close to 60 percent of Filipinos expressing their preference for “a strong leader who does not have to bother with parliament and elections.” A more recent survey by the Pew Research Center, meanwhile, shows that as many as 8 out of 10 Filipinos either prefer or are comfortable with a leader, who doesn’t bother with institutional checks and balances.

Last Monday, President Rodrigo Roa Duterte arguably pulled off the greatest electoral victory in the history of midterm elections. His name was not on the ballot, but the election was fundamentally a referendum on his heterodox, disruptive, controversial, yet highly popular presidency.

As I described it -- and later adopted in a Philippine Daily Inquirer editorial -- we witnessed nothing short of a Monday (Night) Massacre. The liberal opposition suffered complete, absolute and indubitable political evisceration. Among the more than a dozen opposition senatorial candidates, which includes progressives such as Neri Colmenares, not even a single one made it.