MIND DA NEWS: Duterte running: He is the issue

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 30 Nov) – If Sen. Grace Poe is disqualified, she will no longer be the issue that had prompted Davao City Mayor to reconsider his “NO” for president and filed last Friday, November 27, his candidacy as the standard bearer of his party, PDP-Laban, as the substitute for the withdrawn party candidate, Martin Diño. Will Duterte withdraw? This reason for his running will then have been mooted.

NO! Duterte will continue running, unless disqualified. He is the big issue.

The imperatives he wants to do should he become President are what the country sorely needs; but how he wants them done are most controversial. Can he do in six years the same imperatives all past presidents ever since promised every election only to remain as promises for future election? That is what makes him the big issue.

What kind of person is Duterte?

Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda was referring to Duterte’s personality and to Liberal Party’s candidate Manuel A. Roxas III’s programs when he said: “The thing with people running is that we’re so focused on the personalities involved… but at the end of the day, I think you should recognize and people should be more discerning in what each candidate presents to the public. What really is the offer?” Lacierda said. (Philippine Daily Inquirer, November 27th, 2015: Foes shrug off Duterte survey lead)

If we look at the programs of the two, they are both good. The critical issues are: Has Roxas the personality to make good his offer or program? Has Duterte the personality to do the same with his own offer or program?

Without the right personality, good program is hollow – an eternal promise unfulfilled.

By “personalities” and “narratives about them”, Lacierda means “popularity” built on idolizing, media hyping, and image building and re-inventing through “PR” (public relations) with no solid ground to stand on. Can this be said of Duterte?

In the documents he filed with the Comelec, Duterte re-stated what he stated on and after casting his die on November 21 – his platform of good government focused on (1) a fight against corruption, drugs and criminality and (2) fixing governmental operations. Among his thrusts are “streamlining the bureaucracy by introducing digital systems/technologies” and “values formation in all elementary and high schools nationwide.” (Philippine Daily Inquirer, November 28, 2015: DQ case raised as Duterte files Core-C in Comelec)

Can he do it? He told media, he has already done it, saying: “For my credentials for the presidency, Davao is Exhibit ‘A’. He elaborated, “If there comes a time when I arrive in Pasig, I won’t promise heaven. But everyone will have the freedom to walk the streets safely at night. Either I deliver that or I resign,” – punctuated with warning to drug lords and other criminals to go somewhere or else they risk getting killed.

His ‘Exhibit A’ is undeniable – the envy of other cities. But the issue is: Can he do for the entire Philippines what he has done for Davao City? Has he the personality to do it? This makes Duterte the big election issue.

After the filing of candidacy closed last October 16, Maria Ressa of Rappler.com interviewed Duterte revealing his personality. Published in three parts, Part 1 focused on “his 6 contradictions and planned dictatorship” (October 26, 2015, Updated October 29); Part 2, on his “end game for leadership” (October 28, 2015, Updated November 22); Part 3, the full interview entitled “The Leader I Want: Leadership, Duterte-style”, (October 29, 2015).

As introduced in Part 3:

(1) Duterte is “Davao City mayor, federalism advocate, and reluctant presidential bet”.

(2) He is “a man of contradictions. He curses profusely but is congenial and charming. He is a self-declared leftist but has no qualms enforcing a dictatorship”.

(3) “He calls for people to follow the rule of law but has taken the law into his own hands.”

The intro ends with the big issue: “Is the Philippines ready for a Duterte leadership?”

Following are his six contradictions:

Contradiction 1: Breaking the law. “Brusque but charming and confident, Duterte is a man of contradictions, starting with his insistence on maintaining the rule of law while at the same time being equally adamant about breaking the law to bring order.”

Contradiction 2: Are all killers equal? “Not all killers are equal and motives matter.” On “why he has at the very least supported extrajudicial killings”, proud that “he belongs to the Left”, he distinguishes criminals from the rebels, saying, ‘One is for pocket, and the other one is ideology’, and the rebels are ‘fighting as a matter of principle’; ‘the criminals … line their pockets for … [p]ersonal gain. There’s no redeeming factor in killing people, robbing them, raping them’.”

Contradiction 3: Leftist and dictator. “The self-confessed leftist admits he is a dictator. It’s clear he has a vision for the country and that he built it on his lessons learned as Davao’s leader. The Philippines under Duterte’s leadership would be a dictatorship because [he explains] ‘if you become the president, you do not only change leaders, you have to change the Filipino himself’.”

As for the need “to change the Filipino today”, Duterte was quoted characterizing the Filipino, in Tagalog laced with expletives: “Today, you can’t even tell the Filipino to obey the law. You ought to tell him: This is the law. You’d be damned if you did not follow the law, you’d be damned.”

Contradiction 4: Womanizer and women’s rights advocate: “A known womanizer, Duterte has also funded and supports women’s rights” with testimony from “lead activist for gender equality, Irene Santiago [who] says he has done much to empower women in Davao”.

“Duterte supported the Reproductive Health (RH) Bill through the years it languished in Congress, pushing family planning and population control in his area of influence. In 2012, while Congress and the Church debated RH, Davao City was already giving out free contraceptives.”

Contradiction 5: Sexist and gay rights supporter. “Although he openly admits he’s a male chauvinist often shown in his sometimes sexist remarks, he put in place progressive policies, supporting and funding LGBT activists. He also supports gay marriage.”

Contradiction 6: Decisive and indecisive about the presidency. “Perhaps the biggest contradiction of the moment is how such a decisive man could be so indecisive about running for the Philippines’ top job.”

His endgame for leadership has the following mix:

(1) Establish the rule of law. He likens the Philippines today to the United States in the 1920s and early 1930s when gangsters, robber barons, labor sweatshops and corruptions were rampant. He must mean the criminality, drug lords, low minimum wage, smuggling and corruption in the Philippines now. In the U.S., the solution was to establish the rule of law. He implies that in the Philippines laws are allowed to be violated not to rule.

(2) If he wins, he will establish a dictatorship that would discipline Filipinos, establish law and order, eradicate corruption, and bring growth and development. Build institutions that reward doing the right thing. Filipinos are frustrated by the perennial problems that never seem to find a solution. The solution is in the question: Does the Philippines need democracy or discipline? Ironically, most Filipinos agree that the country needs both. Are they mutually exclusive? Obviously, his answer is “NO”;

(3) Strong leadership: Duterte seems to be the latest reincarnation of the yearning of Filipinos for a strong leader. When asked what type of leader the Philippines needs now, he pointed to Ferdinand Marcos minus the corruption. In his focus to “stop corruption”, Duterte differs from Marcos. As evidence, his supporters say that he is not corrupt. In his years in power, he has maintained a simple lifestyle.

(4) Single-minded in his pursuit of law and order, he has no qualms challenging the status quo. He expects pushback or opposition. If the Congress blocks him or threatens him with impeachment, he will shut it down.

(5) He is aware of the complexity of our world today. In foreign policy, he would throw the Philippines’ lot in with China. He is lukewarm at best about the United States, saying, “We’re better off making friends with China. America is also the best friend of China. We will adopt a neutral policy there.”

Read Part 3 of the Rappler.com’s three-part special report for his elaboration and to savor his blunt language interspersed with invectives, expletives, curses and profanities. Even his own party has cautioned him of his un-presidential language. However, if elected there is no doubt that when called for he will speak the language of the president.

What Duterte told Rappler.com during his 45-minute interview with Maria Ressa, he had told the media earlier and repeated after he “crossed his Rubicon” and “cast his die” after November 21. However, unlike the investigative and interpretive reporting in American and European press, the Philippine media reports have not put the issues in perspective. The reporters and editors quote and cite statements of candidates and ask their opponents to comment. That is sensationalizing by playing candidates against each other, the issues muddled or lost.

To her credit, however, Ninez Cacho-Olivares, The Daily Tribune editor-in-chief, took issue with Duterte. In her commentary (November 26, 2015: A punisher for president?), she asked:

“Can Davao Mayor Rodrigo Duterte hack the presidency? True, there are many who want him to be president of the Philippines, since he did a job of bringing in peace and order to the city, amid his violations of the law and the Constitution, which appears to be his only qualification, as far as his admirers and propagandists claim. However, can Duterte replicate even just this in the entire Philippines?” (Bold, ours)

With her lengthy elaboration, she projected Duterte – not what he wants to do if elected – as the election issue.

That he is the election issue was exactly what Duterte meant in a MindaNews report when he told Congress reporters in Matina, Davao City concerning what he can offer the country, hours after he had withdrawn his candidacy for reelection as Davao City mayor last November 27: “My Exhibit A is Davao City. If the way it is run is not fit for a national strategy … then look for somebody else who can do it.”

[Author’s Note: Mind da News, the alternate of COMMENT, is a comment on current news. The author may be contacted at patponcediaz@yahoo.com.]