THE ship of state is leaking and sinking as its captain, President Rodrigo Duterte, has been oblivious of the danger signs, former President Fidel V. Ramos said Saturday.
“Because we are all together onboard Ship Pilipinas—which is still leaky and slow-moving, because of internal strife and disunity, we all need to pull an oar or plug a leak [instead of adding more holes],” Ramos said.
Duterte, he said, “cannot just continue skippering our ship willy-nilly headlong, oblivious of danger signs, without addressing the strategic imperatives of public safety, community harmony, and national development,.”
Regardless of political affiliation, ethnic origin, religious faith or socioeconomic status, everyone needs to work more closely together and “pull more forcefully together to keep the ship seaworthy, competitive, and fast-moving in the right direction—and thereby achieve, without further reversals, aspirations for a better future.”
With the Philippines now ranked 12th in terms of population size, it was now time for the President to put the house in order.
“[It is President Duterte’s] inescapable responsibility to first put our divided house in order. That’s the only way our nation can move forward steadily in the war against poverty, endemic disease, hunger, climate change, environmental degradation, dangerous drugs, joblessness and criminality,” said Ramos.
Citing an article in BizNewsAsia, Ramos said three things stand out during Duterte’s first 100 days: first, a vicious and bloody campaign against illegal drugs and its users and dealers; second, a hardening of presidential policy statements against longtime ally and mentor, the US; and three, failure to cut red tape and corruption in the bureaucracy.
“One can only hope, that in the next 100 days, we will have more of the good than the bad,” Ramos said.
He said getting elected officials, government agencies, peace advocates, the business sector, and other components of society to work together as a team at national and local levels is crucial. “Together, let us propel our ship forward and upward, then stay steady on course to a brighter future,” he said.
This universal hope for a brighter future should provide strategic guidance to the decisions and policies of today’s leaders and their successors, Ramos said.
“It is toward such a better world that leaders—in their roles as ‘custodians of the nation’s ideals, values and permanent interests’—must lead their peoples,” he said.
“This is the kind of governance the Philippines needs—which [President Duterte] must deliver,” Ramos said.
“We need leaders who—because of their visionary qualities and political skills—can see beyond the gloom of the moment to brighter possibilities of the future, enough to carry out painful reforms. Obviously, today’s complex and delicate world must be managed through efficient governance,” said Ramos.
Talking from experience, Ramos said he believes that confronted with many serious concerns, President Duterte is like “a juggler, balancing and keeping aloft at least 10 balls, which are transnational problems.”
“But, as Chief Executive and Commander-in-Chief, he must perform with greater agility and competence than the ordinary circus juggler handling hot potatoes while on a tight [rope] 100 meters up, catching and managing the balls in a calm, harmonious manner, and not drop any in the process,” he said.
While the task is challenging, Ramos said, the “presidency is no place for panicky, self-centered, onion-skinned or fragile characters.”
Ramos urged the administration not to waste opportunities in the next 100 days.
The Philippine ship, in the course of time, had been battered and buffeted by turbulent politics and social unrest, particularly since the 1970s. Poverty continues to be the primary problem, he said.
“We need to work double time to solve it. We must involve every Filipino—every man, woman, and child. We should start them young, teach them the right values while still tender and malleable. We must challenge them to rise, be strong in values, be different from the preceding bad examples, be good citizens of the world,” he said.
“Most of all, we have to teach everyone teamwork. Filipinos cannot anymore afford to be fragmented and fractious. We need to be and act as one nation. We have to move together, in the right direction. We need to care for each other. We need to share and contribute whatever talent one has. We must dare and try all proper means to get results faster, which outcomes should be greater than the sum of the parts,” said Ramos.
No one person can single-handedly bring about progress, Ramos said.
“The job of nation-building requires every citizen, no matter what his or her stature in life is, to do his or her share,” he said.
Ramos said from day one, a national leader must define where he will bring the nation and show the people how to get there. He leads by setting the right example that the citizenry should emulate. He leads by making the correct decisions for the betterment of the many, not the enrichment of the few.
The bottom line is, Ramos said, Duterte cannot do it alone. Nether can the government do it alone.
“But when all of us strive together with one goal in mind, and abide by the same precious values and commitments—we become a strong nation, able to achieve the higher quality of life we have always yearned for—in an environment of enduring peace and sustainable development,” he said.
Ramos, 88, whom Duterte credits for getting him elected, has spoken out against some of the President’s policies in the last two weeks.
Last week, he said the government was “losing badly” after Duterte’s first 100 days because the administration gave priority to the war on drugs at the expense of alleviating poverty, bringing down the cost of living, attracting foreign investments and generating jobs.
A West Point graduate, Ramos questioned Duterte’s anti-American policies and his move to cut military ties with Washington.
Although he was named Duterte’s special envoy to China, Ramos will not be joining the President when he goes on a state visit on Oct. 18. Earlier, Duterte cancelled a scheduled meeting between Ramos and Chinese officials slated for Oct. 1. Reports said Duterte decided to do this because Chinese officials had refused to accept conditions set by Ramos for the meeting to go through.