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Opinion

Changes did not come

COMMONSENSE - Marichu A. Villanueva - The Philippine Star

As he counts down his last three months in office at Malacanang Palace, outgoing President Rodrigo Duterte could not care enough if he talks more than he should on state matters, including classified or sensitive information being divulged to the public. In his latest speaking engagements, President Duterte made a lot of public disclosures in two separate events he attended in Cebu last March 31.

While he was in Cebu, President Duterte had a very long talk in his meeting with the government officials and members of Region VII Joint Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) held at Triton Grand Ballroom in JPark Island in Lapu-Lapu City.

In the second event, President Duterte led the kick-off campaign of the senatorial line-up and local bets endorsed by the pro-administration bloc of PDP-Laban-led coalition during a political rally held in Barangay Pajo, also in Lapu-Lapu City.

In both events, the glib-tongued Chief Executive regaled his audience with his typical crass jokes but which still endears him to many ordinary folks. “Let me just go talk…because I’m about to step down so I want to unload everything that I know. It’s for the people to know and then you decide,” President Duterte pointed out.

The President acknowledged though the prohibition of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) against government personnel from engaging, especially in the use of public resources for partisan politics. Addressing himself to the poll body, the President declared: “It is not –  the COMELEC do not  –  don’t say that I’m campaigning. I’m not campaigning. I’m just talking about what ails the system. I’m not even naming names.”

At the same regional NTF-ELCAC dialogue, the Chief Executive reiterated his beef against the party list system being used as “legal fronts” of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP). A self-confessed socialist, President Duterte accused in particular the “Makabayan bloc” and quoted Undersecretary Lorraine Badoy of the Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO). Badoy dubbed the “Makabayan bloc” lawmakers with an acronym “KABAG.” The acronym “KABAG” stood for the first letters of the names of the five party list groups, namely: Kabataan; Anak-Pawis; Bayan Muna; Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT); and, Gabriela.

In attacking the alleged “legal fronts” of the communist insurgents, President Duterte declared the CPP is “leader-less” already. Specifically, he pointed to Jose “Joma” Sison, the acknowledged CPP leader who, according to persistent rumors, has already passed away while living at The Netherlands under political asylum. “They (CPP) don’t have a leader. Sison? Wala na,” the President quipped. Apparently realizing his slip, the President went on to narrate his previous talks with Sison to strike a final peace agreement with the communist insurgents groups but failed.

The President’s tirades against the “Makabayan bloc” were obviously intended to diminish their endorsement on the presidential bid of Vice President Leni Robredo. Also during the Cebu campaign rally, President Duterte did not mince words to ask “not to vote” for re-electionist Sen.Richard Gordon with whom he has a running feud over the Senate Blue Ribbon chief’s probe on the Pharmally scandal.

“Now, it’s either you believe me, or you don’t. If you don’t, it doesn’t matter because this is your weight to carry, the Philippines,” the President told his audience.

President Duterte on Monday renewed his call for the amendment, if not removal of the provision on the party-list system in the country’s 1987 Constitution. He strongly deplored again that the party list groups were only being used as an electoral vehicle of these “legal fronts” of communists groups as well as by the rich and powerful and political dynasties as backdoor entry to Congress.

During the May, 2016 presidential elections, President Duterte’s campaign slogan rode on “change is coming,” with shift to federalism via constitutional amendments as the top priority in his platform of government he offered to Filipino voters. Apparently, he surmised, more Filipino voters were more than convinced on him and he got elected. But the “shift to federalism” initiative died on its track as members of the 17th and the 18th Congress failed to reach an agreement on the mode of amending our Constitution.

As the President aptly described it, we really have a “fractured” Constitution.

In fairness, the President and his loyal Duterte administration allies have worked so hard from day one of his term in July, 2016 to start the moves to amend the Constitution. This will require, of course, a lot of remedial amendments to make our country’s Charter more realistic from the ground up.

Reminiscing his run during the 2016 presidential elections, the former Davao City Mayor recalled he was trailing at No.4 in the pre-election mock polls and surveys. He recalled having to do “house-to-house” campaign to improve his chances of winning the presidential race.

Was this an oblique endorsement of the strategy of the  “house-to-house” campaign that VP Leni has been doing lately? Running as “independent” presidential candidate, VP Leni has been a far second in pre-election mock polls consistently topped by ex-Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., or BBM for short.

However, President Duterte declared anew he will stay “neutral” in the ongoing campaign of the ten aspirants vying to win the upcoming May 9 elections. Even as the acknowledged nominal chieftain of the Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Laban ng Bayan (PDP-Laban), President Duterte made it clear he won’t be stampeded by his partymates to endorse BBM despite his daughter, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio is the latter’s vice presidential (VP) runningmate.

As he turned 77 years old last week, President Duterte felt fully accomplished in life and politics. All his three children, Mayor Sara, Congressman Paolo, and Vice Mayor Sebastian are all running in next month’s elections.

But the Duterte patriarch insists his is not a political dynasty. Thus, the desired changes did not come at all.

RODRIGO DUTERTE

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