Thursday, June 30, 2016

A Quick Look: Duterte's "Change" is Upon Us

Well, here we go. As of writing, we are a few hours in under Rodrigo Duterte's presidency. Within the 6 years allotted to his rule, he will have ample chances to succeed and fail miserably. And contrary to what many in social media are saying, now is not the time to judge/praise him or otherwise predict a catastrophic future for the Philippines. What we can do as individuals though is hope that he fails in implementing policies we don't want and succeed in implementing those that we view as essential to get to where we want to be.

Leading up and right after the elections, I've written a few posts that would lead people to believe that I didn't support Duterte; I posted quite neutrally about his proclamation speech here (link), I was not happy with how he handled a question directed to him by a UPLB student (link), his friendship with Marcos is troubling to me (link) and him being an ardent supporter of the death penalty doesn't sit well with me (link). But with all the things he does that don't jive with my political ideals, there are things about him and things that he has brought up that give me hope for the next 6 years.

I can't help but admire Duterte. I don't know. Duterte is one of those people that, based on the few friends I have from Davao, got a lot done. Davao was apparently a rotting cesspool characterized by lawlessness before he came. And now, it is supposedly one of the safest cities in the Philippines. But then again, statistical sources are not conclusive about the claim. But the fact that people paint Duterte as this doer who actually got stuff done is amazing. I'm not sure if he was successful in improving Davao per se. But his constituents there certainly believe so. And that alone shows the potential he has when it comes to influencing people. And this is made evident by the balancing act he has done in appointing free-market followers in his cabinet and at same time getting Bayan Muna and other leftist groups to compromise. That right-leaning economic agenda they released in May got leftists fuming. But here we are now, just a month later, and we have militants rallying in support of him.

It is scary in a way that he may use his seemingly limitless political capital in getting what I believe to be detrimental policies done. But at least, the things that he may institute that I agree with won't have as many problems going through as they would otherwise. A good example of this is the Anti-Discrimination Bill. He has shown support for the LGBT community in the past and he has said that discrimination is one of the things that he hates the most. As of now, looking through the comments on Facebook about June's Pride Parade, it is apparent that people are not for this bill. I don't expect this bill to be a priority of his. But we have a president capable of swaying people and also seemingly willing to get it done. We supporters just need to actually organize and be heard.

Aside from the things that need more time to ripen, Duterte has already recognized certain issues that are close to my heart. Minutes into taking his oath, Duterte went ahead and called the attention of government agencies. He called for an end to redundant requirements for government permits as well as efficient service delivery in the matter. Regardless of the politics you are running, without an efficient, effective and accountable bureaucracy, it will be all for naught. Some are saying this is Duterte's version of Aquino's wang-wang bit. But it's not. Wang-wang was a political stunt aimed at making people think that the president is like them and a showcase of empathy while this is Duterte calling for better public administration.

Like most politicians, Duterte has some quirks that aren't palatable to some. From his constant cussing to his apparent disregard for women's rights, it's easy to find things that would get eyebrows raised. But focusing on what's easy may result in losing sight of opportunities.

Duterte is the president. He seems to have a super majority in the legislature. The most prevalent critics of the government, the left, seem to be nestling down in his pockets. Cultural divides are being addressed with the Moros and Lumads. As easy as it is to abhor him, Duterte has made it just as easy to join his bandwagon. It is now up to us to choose which easy step to take: join in on the love-fest or disregard his calls for unity.

As for me, I turn to a line delivered by an extra in HBO's The Newsroom:

The individual price we are paying for not pretending to be "crazy" is nothing compared to the price the country is going to pay for not having a reasonable opposition party
I don't see myself writing positive things regarding Duterte anytime soon. Swimming with the tide is too easy.

1 comment:

  1. Indeed it's too early to say, but so far he's doing a good job. Hundreds of drug addicts and pushers surrendered and he's only just started officially a few days ago. It looks promising. I just wish he could keep some comments to himself. :P