A rising presidential bet we can’t support

INTROSPECTIVE - Tony Katigbak - The Philippine Star

Despite his huge lead in the latest SWS presidential polls among candidates in the race towards Malacañang in 2016, I cannot say that I am in favor of Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte for president. While I commend him for the progress he has made in his own city and for being a mayor that the town seems to truly love and only have good things to say about, I feel that the presidential post is different and that his “fear-driven” brand of justice and leadership won’t translate on a national level.

While I listen with an open mind to all of our presidential candidates’ platforms and ideas for the future, there are many things about the plans of the crime-fighting mayor that I can’t get onboard with. First of all, should he win he wants to change the system of government in the country into a federal state and then immediately plans to go after the rampant criminals in our country by means of fear and possibly execution.

I have to admit, I am one of the citizens who would like to see justice prevail for once in the country. However, I don’t stand by Duterte’s way for achieving this justice. While I understand that fear might be a powerful tool towards achieving discipline, I don’t think it’s the only way to do it, or the right way for that matter. I know we have all been so desperate for change in the country, but we have to remain mindful of those we empower to deliver that change. If anything, we don’t want to change for the worse.

While I feel that Duterte’s intentions are good, it is just too difficult to ignore the price that his change comes with. People talk of his “slaying the dragons” when it comes to the drug dealers and the kidnappers that he’s killed and while “in theory” that seems like a good thing, it’s still very scary to think that could end up living in a country where due process is no longer necessary to mete out punishment. What will happen when the President is allowed to go after virtually anyone without the need for proof or due process? Will that cause crime rate to go down or will that enliven ordinary citizens to follow his lead and dish out their own brand of vigilante justice? It’s hard to say for sure and the risk might not be worth the reward.

Again, I understand why Duterte is so popular to Filipinos these days. We have been looking for someone who can make things better, but I worry that regressing back to a dictator style form of leadership won’t change the abyss of depression the country has become into the progressive and enlightened country we hope for. It might just turn us into a different sort of beast altogether. Perhaps Duterte is not the knight in shining armor we make him out to be. We have to look at it from all angles.

Another concern I have about his style of leadership is his brash way of dealing with others. While I commend his no-nonsense attitude and his courage to say what is on his mind, we can’t deny that we live in a global community. We live in a world where words matter and when it comes to international relations, even the slightest “off” sentence can lead to an international incident. We can’t pretend that the Philippines is isolated and all alone in the world. In fact, we have to rely on other countries for help and partnerships a lot of the time, and while his strength may help us on some fronts, it is still very scary to have a representative who, at any time, may just blow his top and verbally assault another world leader. I would like to think he would not, but historically, that just does not seem to be the case. I worry that Duterte currently lacks the diplomatic finesse to handle global relations. We might end up becoming another North Korea, isolated from the rest of the world leaders.

In either case, as I’ve said in previous columns, I know it is still a long way to the 2016 elections. A lot can happen from now until then and while Duterte is currently in the lead when it comes to presidential candidates that might easily change in the weeks and months ahead. As responsible voters, I think we just have to keep our eyes and ears open and truly get to know our choices, as our votes in 2016 will definitely dictate the future of the country.

* * *

I was watching US President Barack Obama give his speech live on television about the need for stricter gun control in response to the tragedy that occurred in San Bernardino California. Of course many Americans oppose this and claim it is their right (as per the Constitution) to own guns and that they don’t want that right to be taken away.

But honestly, how many more innocent people – children especially – have to die in order for America to realize they have to take this seriously and enact real change. Other countries which suffered a bad mass shooting enacted domestic disarmament programs and enforced strict gun control policies and have not had a mass shooting since (take Australia for instance). But in America, there is just so much bureaucratic red tape (as well as millions of dollars in campaign support funds and lobbying funds) that it seems that it would take a miracle to address the current gun situation. There are shootings in the United States on a daily basis and all the NRA and many US citizens can think of is that they don’t want to give up their guns.

It’s ridiculous. Having a gun (statistics show usually sales of more than one gun per adult) is not a safety net. And for those Americans being honest with themselves and saying a gun is for their protection, how do they explain owning assault rifles and guns that could take down a helicopter? They don’t live in a war zone for crying out loud.

Supreme Court Justice Ginsberg said it best when she noted that the Second Amendment is a preamble about the need for a militia, back in the time when the government could not afford to pay for and supply an army. Citizens were required to have weapons at home so that at any time they may be called upon to fight for the nation. It’s not so that random people could legally arm themselves for war on any given Tuesday.

Personally I think gun control is absolutely necessary in the United States and everywhere in the world for that matter. Rey Pacheco has always advocated the gun ban in the Philippines except for those in the police force and the armed forces and I am inclined to agree with him. There are so many loose firearms in the country, which must be controlled and duly licensed, and while that alone may not cause gun violence to stop, it’s a step in the right direction.












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