Political will
DEMAND AND SUPPLY - Boo Chanco (The Philippine Star) - January 11, 2019 - 12:00am

It is a much abused claim of the Duterte administration. But like the Kaya Natin of FVR, political will is just a propaganda line, a means to give the Duterte administration continuing legitimacy.

I am sure more than half of the 70 percent who claim to still trust Duterte’s leadership are banking on his use of Davao style political will to correct long standing ills of our society and our country, and they are waiting patiently for him to use it more widely.

But the Philippines is not Davao City. It is easier to show political will in a city with its limited land area and population. It is a lot harder to show political will in a country with a population as large, diverse, and fractious as the Philippines.

In a city like Davao, a mayor shows political will simply by collecting garbage, penalizing people who litter in public places, terrorizing criminal elements to behave or end up as corpses, providing basic services to the citizens as speedily as possible, and even limiting corruption.

I am sure Duterte misses his days as mayor of Davao when he was able to produce visible results almost at will. He must be so frustrated he cannot get those same results quickly, if at all, today even if he is now the country’s most powerful official.

No wonder he prefers to always be in Davao and still be called mayor. I get the impression he finds being called president somewhat pretentious. After all, he felt more powerful as Davao City mayor.

But he is president and he must live up to his promise to use political will to right the wrongs around us. As he approaches the halftime of his term, he has to take a moment to see how to be more effective.

No less than Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, his presumably loyal ally, has publicly stated that the Duterte administration “must produce tangible results all around during the second half of the President’s term.”

In a statement, Arroyo said the administration must “produce results our people will feel in their day-to-day lives… The focus must now be on implementing things quickly and efficiently, in all fronts. This is consistent with some Cabinet members’ call for vigorous implementation of the government’s infrastructure program,” she said.

Arroyo is, in so many words, asking Duterte to make good on the expectations of our people for him to use political will to get a lot of urgent things done. I guess she isn’t buying Sal Panelo’s claim the President has used his “political will” to accomplish much. 

For one thing, bluster and angry speeches to scare off the opposition and other critics do not count as political will. The killing of suspected foot soldiers of the illegal drug rings don’t count as political will. On the other hand, going after the drug lords (specially those who have been seen with him in photos) demands political will.

The only real show of political will I will concede is the Boracay clean-up. I know it caused a big loss of business for many, but it was a job that simply had to be done. To Duterte’s credit, he did not allow any politician or influential business interests to get in the way of the island’s clean- up.

The clean-up was successful also because he had two former military officers, Sec. Cimatu and Sec. Año, who were as committed to getting the job done as the President was. 

Sustaining the gains of that Boracay clean-up is now the job of Tourism Secretary Berna Romulo-Puyat. I am confident she is also one driven public official with political will, won’t take no for an answer, to get her job done right.

Marawi was essentially a military affair. Duterte’s role there while the guns were blazing was to provide support to his generals in the field. His moral support was important for the troops, the bakwits, and the nation as a whole while the skirmishes were going on.

Political will was needed in quickly rehabilitating the city after the war was won. But government efforts in this area stalled. Perhaps the civilian officials tasked with the work were not good enough. But if the President was more hands-on, he should have taken remedial action after at most, two months of nothing much happening.

Marawi’s rehabilitation is still waiting for Duterte to show political will to this day.

The other big problem that demanded Duterte’s political will is Manila’s horrible traffic problems, on the ground and in the air. Unfortunately, the people Duterte trusted to fix the problems were not up to the challenges.

Duterte’s DOTr is a mess. It is run by a dear friend of Duterte from their law school days. The guy loves to invoke Duterte’s political will to solve these problems, but has delivered nothing much so far but left over projects from the previous administration and glowing press releases.

The biggest challenge demanding Duterte’s political will is the rationalization of the EDSA bus system. There are over 50 operators running thousands of buses with drivers on the boundary system on 120 routes. It is a problem demanding to be solved.

I understand the operators were not as intransigent about the idea of reforming the system. But Duterte’s man blinked terribly. Unless that’s fixed, everybody suffers.

 There is more to say about Duterte’s claim of political will on other issues than space allows in this column. Succeeding columns will deal with those problems too.

Obviously Duterte cannot do it alone. But many of his Cabinet members have failed to deliver on expectations and Duterte must have political will to drop them.

For now, it is best for Duterte and his propagandists to stop saying they have political will unless they are ready to show that they really do.

Boo Chanco’s e-mail address is bchanco@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @boochancoa

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