If Duterte becomes president


Something has just happened to change the political drama in this country; Davao City mayor Rodrigo Duterte is joining the presidential race! Now there are five contenders to the post PNoy will vacate in June next year. Who will win? Some analysts are batting for Duterte. The reason? Filipinos are tired of traditional politicians the pa-pogi-pogi type, the man of the masa pretenders who talk and talk of service and love of country but whose secret agenda is towards power and pelf for selves, relatives, and close associates.

In contrast, Duterte, they say, will be different. He won't talk much nor promise much. He will be a man of action, a man of solution to whatever is wrong in our society--corruption, criminality, drug addiction, rebellion, and what have you. In short, he will be our knight in a shining armor.

Very well, but will this ever come to pass? Assuming Duterte will become president will be succeed in fixing this country? The reality is that leadership won't work without the collaboration of a substantial klatch of constituents backstopping that leadership. Those who are now jumping in delight for Duterte's entry into the contest, are they inspired by the same ideals as those of their champion? Do they too have the no-nonsense temper towards public service? Or are they nothing but mere opportunists who are itching to be with the new power circle for their own selfish ends?

After Martial Law we installed a pure-hearted woman to lead us towards democracy and progress. But what happened? Left-leaning politicians disguised as yellow brigades dismantled the bureaucracy by replacing incumbent local officials with vindictive bureaucrats and inexperienced decision makers. The result was massive disunity and seven coup de etat not to mention a basket case of an economy. The woman leader had good intentions but those around her had bad agenda.

Will not a similar scenario unfold with a Duterte presidency? The mayor's strong-arm ways may have worked in Davao City, but will it work for the entire country? The mayor himself said lately that a "piece of paper", meaning our Constitution, is the very thing that holds us together as a people. Once vested with executive power, will he not disregard that "piece of paper" as he runs after the crooks in the government, the crime syndicates, the drug lords, and the jueteng moguls?

That "piece of paper" says that the rule of law should always prevail, which means due process is a must before disciplinary action. The same "piece of paper" makes obligatory respect for human rights, which means every individual no matter how poor is entitled to equal protection of the law. These and many other safeguards against abuses are enshrined in the country's jurisprudence and violations are subject to punishment.

No doubt, these legal guideposts will serve to restrict Duterte's moves when he tries to slaughter, so to speak, the dragons in Philippine society. He is a lawyer and knows the boundary between safeguarding suspects and salvaging. But a strong political will plus a strong support from the general populace will work wonders. Committing himself to exercise political will and convincing people to stand behind him would therefore be the primary tasks of Duterte as he starts his term.

The other task is perhaps the most important: reengineering the government from its present form into a federal one. Imperial Manila must be dismantled, and local government officials must be given ample decision-making space to be effective catalysts for good government and progress. More than decision making authority, substantial budgetary allotments should be given them for major infrastructure projects and effective social services initiatives especially for the disadvantaged constituents.

Moreover, the current structure of government needs radical reform. Instead of two houses of Congress, for instance why can't we have just one with limited membership? And what about the party-list representatives, do we really need them? And what about the troublesome multi-party system, shall this be left undisturbed?

Federalism is one of Duterte's advocacies. Surely, as president, he can push for it even as he keeps the country's house in order.

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