Rodrigo Duterte’s entry into the presidential race felt like an adrenaline rush for many. Suddenly, the game became exciting and colorful. Here is a man who has never before held a national elective post, whose name is synonymous with toughness, and who does not pretend to be charming or solicitous. The messages he delivers are not hard sell; rather, they are the reverse. He essentially says, for instance, that if you are happy with how government is now being run, do not vote for him.
The exchange of messages in social media since his declaration has been upbeat. I initially thought months ago that support for him would be confined to Mindanao and the Cebuano-speaking population but soon realized that in Metro Manila, a good proportion from various social classes, that is, from the common tao consisting of taxi drivers, vendors, salon staff, etc., up to the middle and upper classes of society, go for Duterte.
What makes him tick? Here is my two cents’ worth. People are tired of traditional politicians who promise and never deliver. He, in turn, is known for having made Davao the peaceful, progressive and livable city that it is. People have become nauseated with catchy slogans that are, in reality, just that. They are sick of candidates who go out and make a show of loving people but in reality desire only to enrich themselves in power. They are tired of corruption, criminality and poverty. They see in Duterte a president who, for a change, is a strongman with good intentions, like Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore. They see hope that the problem of corruption and rising criminality, especially those related to drugs, will somehow be eliminated. Too, people who back Grace Poe, now the frontrunner, are scared that she would be disqualified and they’d be left with no other choice as the other names lack promise and genuine concern for the lot of the Filipinos. With Duterte’s entry into the race, they see a viable alternative.
As for me, what makes him promising as a leader is his reputation for delivering what he commits to do. He said that to eliminate corruption he will raise the salaries of government workers especially the police, the military personnel, the teachers, among others. He also promised to transform our system of government into one of federalism. This concept may sound nebulous to many but this is what our country has long needed to progress. Federalism is nothing more than decentralization of powers of government. Instead of the unitary presidential system which we have had for 28 years now—concentrating power in the president—the better option is the federal system. Regions will be given a better chance to develop and determine for themselves their destiny since their own revenues will remain with them, giving only a smaller share to the national government. Local governments will therefore have the chance to focus their resources on what they believe they need most: be it more schools, more roads, more health facilities, etc. As it is now, the regions far from imperial Manila and whose local leaders have no close ties with the Palace and Congress remain poor and undeveloped. Duterte presents a hope for change.
Expectedly, there will be moves to disqualify him on technical grounds as he is substituting for Martin Diño who filed a Certificate of Candidacy as president but allegedly wrote that he was running for mayor of Pasay City. There will likewise be attempts to discredit and smear him by claiming that he is a human rights violator with links to death squads in Davao that punish criminals. In my mind, the better policy to take is to let the electorate decide who they want to lead them. Sovereignty, after all, as expressed in the Constitution resides in the people and all powers emanate from them.
The Filipino consumers must be the most patient lot in the planet. They live with the deteriorating or permanently poor service of the major telecommunications networks without as much as raising a howl. In the past several months, it has become increasingly difficult to make calls and if one succeeds in getting through, calls get dropped. Internet services which we pay for, perform only at a fraction of their promised capacity. A Filipino-American lawyer who visited the Philippines recently as a balikbayan egged me to gather as many complainants as possible to file a class suit against a network. He complained that the load of the pre-paid SIM card he bought with UNLI feature would run out very quickly. And having spoken to many other users with the same complaint, he wondered how Globe and Smart can get away with it. Something like this would immediately merit a class suit in the US, he said.
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