TURNING POINT: Of Figure of Speech, Predictability and Reliability in Governance

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NAAWAN, Misamis Oriental (MindaNews / 07 December) — Every time the President opens his mouth and comes out with a controversial statement that spurs critics to action, his phalanx of apologists, and hyperactive supporters are quick to downplay things saying that what the idol said was a figure of speech and did not  actually mean it. It was a metaphor, a hyperbole or something else.

When he, for instance, said that he was the death squad of Davao City, that could not be true because how could one person be a squad? Ridiculous and impossible, his overworked and ultra-stressed defenders would chime. Literally that’s impossible of course.

But metaphors are not supposed to be interpreted literally.  “I am the death squad” may mean that he was responsible for its creation or the one who inspired and encouraged its creation. When he claimed that he had killed 100 or 1000, or 700 or 7000 criminals, it’s likely a hyperbole or an exaggeration as justified by adoring loyalists. While the huge figures might have been exaggerated to add color to his language, the truth remains that minus the exaggeration many, indeed, had been liquidated, the undisclosed number of which is the basis of the hyperbole.

That he would ride a jet ski and plant the Philippine flag on one of the contested Spratly islands in the South China Sea was another picturesque figure of speech of a future policy as President of the Republic suggesting that he would  assert Philippine sovereignty in the country’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). Ironically, as events later unfolded, the reverse of the aggressive vote-luring statement happened. Under his watch, the country is now surrendering and not asserting its sovereignty over its internationally recognized territory.

Another example of incongruity between his statement and action is when he allows the continuous presence of the US troops in PH soil notwithstanding earlier announcement to kick them out of the country just after bullshitting President Obama over human rights issue on his drug war.

Making pronouncements with very disturbing implications often puts his defenders in the bind.

Upon his election as president, the mayor encouraged civilians to arm themselves and to kill suspected drug lords, pushers and users in the neighborhood, and promised them bounties, support and recognition for the accomplishment. The alarming implication of the pronouncement was that he approved vigilantism and was promoting summary execution or extra-judicial killing throughout the land.

Since he assumed leadership, the President has made a number of public statements which, after a while, were reversed by actual actions, or dismissed by him as nothing but a joke, leaving people thereby in endless and unproductive guessing game.

It is needless to say that transparency and predictability are very important in governance. They build up confidence in and assure reliability of processes, systems and institutions, a deciding governance factor that draws in foreign and local investments alike.

To quash doubt, confusion and uncertainty, the President ought to stop the guessing game. It would abundantly benefit the nation if he says what he means and means what he says. (MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. William R. Adan is a retired professor and former chancellor of the Mindanao State University Naawan campus in Misamis Oriental).

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