Are overeager supporters undermining Duterte?
FROM FAR AND NEAR - Ruben Almendras (The Freeman) - January 30, 2018 - 12:00am

In the past month there have been a number of initiatives by overeager Duterte supporters among them; the proposal by two Congressmen to move the seat of government to Davao, the abolition of the Office of the Vice-President and the Office of the Ombudsman, the amendment of the Constitution by a Constituent Assembly and making the Senate irrelevant, and the cancellation of the Rappler SEC registration at the instance of the solicitor general over a correctable violation. Then there was the earlier Gatchalian incident where he used the same words of praise to Duterte that he had earlier said to PNOY, and the UST Alumni Association award to Uson. All these and many others earlier are fawning or "sipsip" actions to get on the good side of the powers to gain favors or concessions, for which we cannot really blame the proponents.

History and recent events have shown that these have been beneficial to some, like the appointment of Dante Jimenez to a new Anti-Corruption body, the appointment of Sandra Cam to the PCSO Board, the ascent of Uson and Roque in the government. In fact, Speaker Alvarez had formally announced that only those provinces and local governments that support federalism will get a share of the infrastructure budget. The rewards or the perceived rewards supports and perpetuates this kind of behavior even if it is a "turn off" to many people. This does not reflect or speak highly of our society or our people but this is not peculiar to us. This behavior is as old as political power and for those who cling on to power by this method.

There is a short-term and a long-term effect on this kind of behavior. Given the short cycle of elections, those in political power resort to this transactional give-and-take for survival and continuity in power even if not totally palatable to them. In the short term, the quality of the people in the government suffers as incompetent officials are appointed to positions and government performance falters. More important government initiatives are delayed, sidetracked, or not done at all. In some instances, government officials have to backtrack or retreat from the appointments due to unpopular public reaction.

In the long term this is more damaging as it undermines the institutions that are needed in a functioning democratic government, like an independent judiciary, a free press, and a merit-based civil service/bureaucracy. In the bestseller book two years ago "Why nations fail" the necessity of preserving democratic social institutions and the provision of equal opportunity to succeed was paramount in determining the success of nations. So unless we are bent on transforming our democratic government into something else, we have to veer away from the transactional actions of overeager government supporters.

The Duterte government has been doing quite well in the economic front and some other areas and these transactional deals are distracting and undermining its successes. The short-term gains are not worth the long-term liability and the judgment of history. Six years is enough time to make a lasting mark/impression to be loved and remembered by the people, and set the next generation in the right direction.

Somebody once said that sometimes it is easier to handle the loss of political power than the gain of political power, and I believe he was particularly referring to the potential danger of overeager supporters that he has to please to stay in power. I have also heard some politicians say they are actually happier now that they are no longer in power. Food for thought.

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