President Rodrigo Duterte is tired—or so he says. “Guys, I want you to know that I am thinking of stepping down.”
The operative word is “thinking,” not “stepping down.”
This is not the first time Mr. Duterte has told us he wants to quit his job. He has done it before—far too many times, actually, that we have trouble taking his words at face value.
For example, he threatened to quit if somebody could prove that God existed, if many women signed a petition protesting his act of kissing a female supporter on the lips, if he and his children are proven corrupt, or if he failed to end the drug menace beyond a self-imposed timeline.
This time around, the 73-year-old President lamented his inability to end corruption in government. He was speaking in the context of the discover of P6.8 billion worth of methamphetamine that supposedly slipped past the Bureau of Customs.
What gave the President’s words even less credence was his expression of a preferred successor, even as the Constitution is very clear about the rules of succession, and even as he really should know better, being himself a lawyer.
The Secretary of Finance, Carlos Dominguez, says he understands why the President feels tired. Mr. Duterte works non-stop, he says, and needs a break.
It’s the people who need a break from attention-grabbing pronouncements that threaten to distract us from talking about the more substantive things in government. For example, whether we could get some relief from the burden of high prices. Whether the proposed federal form of government would actually do more harm than good. Whether corruption could ever really be ended. Whether infrastructure would ever really improve, or whether economic development and equity would actually reach a point when fewer Filipinos would seriously consider going abroad to earn a decent living.
Perhaps Mr. Duterte feels the need to entertain us with sound bytes—we say, no thanks, sir. Everybody gets tired, but what is more exhausting is figuring out whether somebody means what he says, or not.