President Duterte's many unfinished businesses

WHAT MATTERS MOST - Atty. Josephus B. Jimenez (The Freeman) - June 23, 2021 - 12:00am

The day millions of Filipinos voted for Rodrigo Duterte over Mar Roxas, Jojo Binay, Grace Poe, and Miriam Defensor Santiago was on April 24, 2016 in the last of the three presidential debates held in the University of Pangasinan in Dagupan. It was hosted by ABS-CBN with Karen Davila and Tony Velasquez, moderating. It was there that Duterte made promises that convinced many undecided voters; solve the drug problem in six months, abolish contractualization upon assumption, adopting federalization, and ride on a jet ski and plant the Philippine flag in Scarborough Shoal. Today, none of these have been fulfilled. To put it kindly, none of them have been finished.

Actually, those promises were also made in Mindanao, in the first presidential debate in Cagayan de Oro on February 21, 2016, hosted by GMA-7 and Inquirer with Mike Enriquez and John Nery as moderators. They were repeated in UP Cebu with Channel 5's Luchi Cruz Valdes moderating. While the other candidates were equivocating on the fight against drugs, Duterte did not mince words. He was not very careful in adorning his language with the niceties of human rights advocates. He called a spade a spade. He was not afraid to see people die because his mission was clear; to save his country and his people, especially the children. He’s a lawyer like Jojo Binay and the late Santiago. But he didn’t care about the lives of drug lords. He is for the victims and their families. All these resonated with the middle class, the masses and even the Class A and B audience. That sealed his victory.

He promised to end contractualization on the day he assumed office. He equated “endo” with outsourcing. He wasn’t properly advised by his lawyers and technical advisers. But the common people didn’t know the difference. And he generalized that all contractors are engaged in "5-5-5", giving short-term work contracts to workers subject to constant renewals, and he believed that it was done to deprive the employees not only of permanent status and security tenure. It was also done, he said, to avoid paying 13th month pay and other benefits. His speechwriters and assistants didn’t know Labor Law but the people were convinced that he was the messiah for the working class. He won the labor vote that night. That was a crucial tipping point.

On Imperial Manila, he discussed his blueprint for federalization. He abhorred the bureaucratic inanities and red tape of a highly-centralized government. He wanted government authority to be devolved to the local government units in the genuine and fullest extent of local autonomy, through federalization. He promised to transform our structures of governance to a federal system. Then he was very bullish about the West Philippine Sea. Karen Davila interviewed a fisherman from Zambales who used to fish in Bajo de Masinloc but was driven out by Chinese Navy. He promised to go there and plant our flag and confront the Chinese. The people believed him only to be told that it was a joke, or to embellish it, that was only a figure of speech or a hyperbole according to the presidential spokesman.

Today, the drug problem is still in full swing. Contractualization remains. Federalization has not even taken off. Planting a flag was just a joke. Thus, he said that the idea of running for vice president is not a bad idea. The reason is that he still has many things to finish. In this connection, I remember another Philippine president. I recall the story told by Erap. I was in Kuwait as a labor attaché when Erap came to the embassy to campaign for his second try to become president. When I introduced him during the convocation attended by thousands of OFWs. I asked him: Sir, why are you running again? He answered in his speech: “My old mom, Doña Mary scolded me. Joseph, I sent you to Ateneo to study, you did not finish it. The Filipinos elected you president, you did not finish it either. Then, president GMA detained you in Tanay, you also did not finish it. That is why, ladies and gentlemen, I am running again in order to finish at least one thing.”

President Digong has not finished any of his promises yet. That is why he will run again as president, through Inday Sara or Bong Go as proxy, or run for vice president, as the real power behind the throne. This is at least to finish one or two things, if not all. If that happens, then we are all finished.

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