"Manghilabot si tatay"
TO THE QUICK - Jerry S. Tundag (The Freeman) - January 3, 2018 - 12:00am

As the year before an election year, 2018 cannot but itself become highly political. And while the midterm election in 2019 will largely be local but for the race for 12 expiring seats in the 24-seat Senate, much of the political shakeups and shakedowns will still manage to hit the doorbell up there in Malacañang where the main guy has not had a real good night's sleep since taking power in 2016.

Except perhaps for Ferdinand Marcos, no president has so shaken the fabric of Philippine life and been shaken in turn as a consequence than Rodrigo Duterte. All other presidents since Marcos provoked controversy as a general result of factors that are largely endemic and peculiar to politics -incompetence, corruption, etc. etc.

Duterte is different. He orders killings or threatens to kill. He has a short fuse and quarrels with anybody, making no distinction between the sexes. He curses even the Pope. He shames the media. And yet he charms with a charm that is effusive. And he is as soft as he is hard. He is a magnet for public attention, and in so doing becomes a walking controversy.

That is why even if 2019 will largely be a local election year, much of the political happenings that will start occurring in 2018 will either emanate from Malacañang or be kicked up in that direction. The person that he is, and the causes that he espouses, Duterte is not beyond meddling in grassroots rabble-rousing and getting targeted in return.

Many of those with a mind to target Duterte are of the notion that by hitting the principal, they can injure the local. And they may be partly right, given the mass exodus of late toward his super majority. Undermine Duterte enough, and it might start the domino effect. But those with a mind to do so are forgetting one thing -Duterte closed 2017 on a high note and is expected to stay strong in 2018.

Despite his many controversies, Duterte, just like any other president, is not likely to become a lame duck until the closing months of his presidency. His anti-illegal drug war is unpopular only in the expected places, and at the expected time. But as with all things, even unpopularity will have to give way to natural wear and tear.

Even his martial law has the Supreme Court in general concurrence. So how can you really undermine a leader like that, at least at this stage in the game? If I may hazard an answer to my own question, it would be an emphatic no way. And so it will be as it has always been. Politics will remain the staple of the day, only that in this upcoming 2019 local poll, the president himself will be in the thick of it.

Even in the off-chance that his critics will leave him alone, Duterte himself will not be able to restrain himself. He will jump into the lake. He is a local boy at heart. The "politika sa probinsya" throbs mightily in his veins. Duterte will find it extremely hard not to embroil himself in local politics. A father figure, he cannot remain impervious to what his children are doing. Against the word of his advisers, "manghilabot g'yud ni si tatay." Father always intervenes.


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