Courting heart attack, losing sleep

TO THE QUICK - Jerry Tundag (The Freeman) - May 12, 2021 - 12:00am

Critics of President Duterte's policy in the South China Sea, especially of appeasement toward China, risk dying sooner than the old man whose health they have questioned since the day he stepped into Malacañang. They are so angry they could have a heart attack. They are losing sleep they could go nuts and jump from a bridge.

And the saddest thing about it is that Duterte cannot be held liable if something happens to them. Their misery is self-inflicted. They are torturing their own selves. And all because they are either too impatient, or think they know better than Duterte, or plainly do not understand what they are so angry about.

Duterte did not force himself on the Filipino people. Back in the 2016 campaign trail, Duterte told Filipinos not to vote for him if for any reason they did not believe in him. He was the only candidate candid enough to do that. Duterte did not ask for his mandate, it was freely given to him. A mandate is like a marriage, where assent is freely given, and whose dissolution does not come at just every whim or whiff of a wrong.

A mandate, like a marriage, is something you see through. Otherwise, what is the point of a mandate, or a marriage, if one is unwilling to go on beyond each stumble or prick. If a leader makes an unpardonable mistake, then the electorate must have made the greater mistake of electing an inept leader and should man up to their own mistake instead of blaming the consequence of a bum decision.

Only immature citizens gang up on their leader at every misstep he makes. More mature ones encourage him to do better, inspire him to be stronger. That is the essence of a democratic representative government. The opposite of that, the constant badgering, is what fuels the instinct of self-preservation among officials, making them corrupt. Enriching themselves is a function of self-preservation by people made insecure by distrust.

Duterte deserves the continued trust that came with his mandate. He is a good president. He is even a great president. But he is not perfect. He has his mistakes. He misappreciated corruption and the drug problem. But he has done more against them than all the other presidents combined have. And sorry to add more to the misery of his critics, but I think he is doing well in foreign policy, especially with regard to the South China Sea.

But if the Filipinos think he made a mistake there, he can be replaced by someone Filipinos think can do better. And that is fine with me. Right now though, Duterte, as president, is the sole architect of Philippine foreign policy. Right or wrong, that is the policy we have to live with until we elect a new leader, with a mandate we must respect till the end of his term, to cobble his own new, and hopefully more acceptable, policy.

I am in fact eagerly awaiting to see who gets to be the next president. I am in fact hoping it will be Carpio so I can see how he manages the South China Sea situation. I would like to see how he acts with his feet on the ground, when he finally knows things for what they really are, when he knows things not usually known by other people, when he finally considers things from a broader perspective and not just his own.

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