“This country cannot afford a Duterte-type surprise in the coming election.”
An electoral campaign is akin to the process of negotiation for the best terms of a contract between a candidate and the people. In a democratic society, the contract being negotiated is the social contract for the good governance of a society by the winning candidate. The contract is signed and sealed when the winning candidate takes his or her oath of office on a specified date, which in the case of the victorious presidential candidate is the June 30 immediately following the election.Like most negotiators, candidates for the office of President of the Philippines tend to be less than totally forthcoming with the electorate. They tend to keep some of their cards close to their chest, which cards they spring on the people when they are safely installed in the presidency. By then it is too late: they can no longer retrieve the votes they cast for a man or woman who seemed to have the makings of a good Chief Executive.
The perfect example of this fact of political life is the mayor of Davao City who ran for President in the 2016 election. The Rodrigo Duterte who negotiated with the voters during the 2016 electoral season is not the same person as the Rodrigo Duterte who is preparing to step down as president. Mr. Duterte has done and said many things since July 1, 2016 that were not expected by the voters who cast their ballots for him. Had they known that during his administration thousands of poor – repeat, poor – Filipinos would be gunned down by PNP (Philippine National Police) personnel under allegedly “nanlaban” circumstances, the voters who voted for him surely would not have done so. Had the Davao City mayor indicated to them during the campaign that his administration would be subservient to China, the voters would surely have turned to a candidate of a more patriotic bent.
This country cannot afford a Duterte-type surprise in the coming election. The most effective way to avoid such a surprise is the taking by all of the presidential candidates of any oath stating in unambiguous terms what they specifically will do and not do.
The oath should open with the words “When elected president, I solemnly pledge to do or not do the following” and should include these specifics:
“1. I pledge to instruct the PNP personnel to arrest illegal drug pushers and users, not kill them on a nanlaban claim.
2. I pledge to stop using the word ‘kill’ when addressing uniformed personnel.
3. I pledge to vigorously pursue the international arbitral ruling on the South China Sea and to order resistance to Chinese intrusions into sovereign Philippine waters.
4. I pledge to promote a truly independent foreign policy and re-establish close ties with the Philippines’ historic allies.
5. I pledge to dismiss from the government service, and not recycle, civil servants strongly suspected or found guilty of wrongdoing.
6. I pledge to stop militarizing the civil service through appointments of retiring military officers.
7. I pledge to accord greater respect to the Senate as a truly co-equal branch of government and to support the Senate’s efforts toward improvement of national governance.
8. I pledge to make government appointments on the basis of competence and integrity, not geographical origin.”
If they are sincere about their professed desire to provide this country with good governance, the six presidential candidates should have no problem signing the foregoing pledge. Their insincerity – and their wanting to pull a Duterte-type surprise – will become manifest if they have trouble signing it.