COMMENT: Duterte: The Dilemma

GENERAL SANTOS CITY, April 22¸ 2016 – Ahead of the pack, Davao City Mayor Rodrigo R. Duterte has become “The Dilemma”. His massive support from across the social classes ABCDE casts him as the strong leader who can rid the country of bcriminality, corruption, smuggling and drug menace. His rivals and critics from the elite society, human and women rights advocates, and the Catholic Church condemn him as a ruthless leader and his coarse language as a disgrace to the presidency.

The Question: Elect Duterte president to have the strong leader the country needs; or, not to elect him lest he rules with iron-fist or be a disgrace to the presidency.

The Given

First: Criminality, corruption, smuggling and drug menace have long plagued the country. Every election, presidential candidates promised to eradicate the plagues. But every president failed. When it came to these plagues, our past and present presidents proved weak, indecisive – hence, the need for a strong president.

Second: Under the aegis of democracy, our government is a government of laws and rights entrenched in our Constitution. Criminals, the corrupt, smugglers and drug lords and traffickers have rights including the right to due process and their humanity. Rule by iron-fist is condemned.

Third: The President represents the Philippines among the families of nations. Heads of states must conform to diplomatic protocols, among them the finesse of conduct and language. To violate the protocols is to disgrace the presidency and the Philippines.

Sizing Up Duterte

How does Duterte measure up to these given?

On the first: His supporters hail him as a strong leader who can stamp out criminality, corruption and drug menace like what he has done for Davao City for more than twenty years as mayor. But his rivals and critics are questioning the Davao City model; and, even if real, they doubt if he can replicate nationwide the model.

On the second: Duterte has admitted having killed criminals and warning drug pushers to stop their trade or be killed if they would not and stayed. He said he had instructed the police to shoot criminals if they resisted arrest. It is known there existed in Davao City death squads that executed notorious persons including teen-aged gang members.

On the third: Duterte talks tough spiced with expletives and curses. Even if at times he would apologize he persists in his coarse and foul language. That is what he is, he says. People must vote for him as what he is; otherwise, they vote for any of his rivals. Will he change according to protocols and diplomatic standards should he win?

The Problem

If the poll survey trend continues, Duterte will win. To his vast followers, he will solve the problems of criminality, corruption, smuggling and drug menace – the four plagues. Good, if he can. But hope may not turn into reality. Even if it does, Duterte can still be “The Problem” – bulldozing the rule of law, due process and human rights; and posing as an international embarrassment for the Philippines.

As “The Problem”, he can be avoided if he loses. He can lose. His rivals and critics are ganging on him due to his latest joke on rape. Can they pull him back or down? Maybe YES; maybe NO. His vast supporters may consider the problem of Duterte’s foul mouth not as serious as the need for a strong leadership they hope him to provide. If he loses, the four plagues will remain “The Problem”. Duterte’s rivals are only offering rehashed versions of the same solutions that have failed.

Duterte’s loss will smother the belief of his vast followers that under his leadership the four plagues will be eradicated. Duterte, good riddance! The four plagues would feel relieved. What comfort is there in getting rid of one problem while tolerating another?

It would be most comforting if Duterte pledges that if he wins he will to adhere to the rule of law, due process and human rights and to refine his language to conform to the diplomatic and presidential protocols. Will he pledge to?

What are the signs?

(Next: Duterte’s rape joke)

(MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. Patricio P. Diaz was former editor of the Mindanao Cross in Cotabato City and later the Mindanao Kris. The Titus Brandsma Media Center honored Mr. Diaz with a Lifetime Achievement Award)