Promises to keep
WAS Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno being pragmatic or cynical when he urged the public last week to differentiate between President Rodrigo Duterte and candidate Duterte, who made promises during the election campaign?
Diokno made the statement after the President—on the urging of his economic advisers—balked at granting one of his key campaign promises, to raise the monthly Social Security System (SSS) pensions of millions of retirees by P2,000.
Asked about the political fallout that the President might suffer if he did not keep his word, Diokno suggested this phenomenon was not all that uncommon.
“Candidate Duterte is different from President Duterte,” the Budget chief said in Filipino. “And you see that all over, even worldwide. Candidate [Donald] Trump is different from President Trump. You promised something that, when you see the data, it’s not doable.”
Some might say there was nothing controversial in the Budget secretary’s observation. After all, the public has long grown accustomed to politicians who will promise anything to gain office, then renege on those promises once elected.
On the other hand, candidate Duterte ran and was elected on a platform of change, one of which presumably was to do away with cynical and untrustworthy politicians and replace them with government officials who actually kept their promises.
One of Mr. Duterte’s allies on the left, the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan), denounced Diokno’s statement as “unacceptable.”
“No one would believe candidates’ promises, then,” the group’s secretary-general, Renato Reyes, said.
More pointedly, no one, eventually, would believe President Duterte, whose credibility would be eroded by his inability to keep his word. This would be a truly problematic situation, given that Mr. Duterte still has more than five years left in office.
The President did announce on Tuesday a P1,000-hike—hardly enough to augment the pensioners’ rising cost of needs. It was a clear compromise after seeing the public’s reaction to his going back on his word.
The pension hike isn’t the only promise candidate Duterte has thus far failed to deliver in his new persona as President. He also promised to jet ski to the Spratly islands and plant a Philippine flag to challenge China. A few months later, President Duterte is all but licking China’s boots, even offering to set aside a UN tribunal’s favorable ruling in an effort to appease Beijing.
This wasn’t a mere broken promise, it was a complete reversal of what Mr. Duterte said he would do.
The perilous thing about Mr. Duterte’s broken promises are that they eventually pit his supporters against each other.
On one side, there are those in his government who, like Secretary Diokno, see the folly in some of the President’s promises. On the other side are the millions of supporters who elected Mr. Duterte into office—precisely because they believed in his promises.