4:17pm || Du30
I rarely make political opinions here (and I’m not used to) but when I do, it’s because I’m passionate about it. Isn’t it ironic that people clamour for change yet they themselves don’t want to change? Many demand a cure for society’s ills yet refuse to swallow the bitter pill.
On my public social media accounts, it is no secret that I root for Davao City mayor Rodrigo Duterte. I blatantly support him not because of his rogue attitude but for being a visionary and for having a strong political will. I’ve noticed that his critics and bashers haven’t even set foot (not even a toe) on Davao City. They haven’t even seen the situation on the ground. None of them have experienced the safety and security that the city provides for its residents and tourists alike. Nor are they familiar with the political situation there. It doesn’t have the bearings of a constituency that is run by corrupt political dynasties. Not even a single epal around. In his early years in office, he had purged the city’s most corrupt officials and employees.
Amid the criticisms, why does his supporters root for him? Surely, it’s a given that Davaoeños have their backing but the his growing support base from different parts of the nation are those who are tired and sick of trapos who may be eloquent speakers yet fail to deliver their promises. Why need someone who uses flowery language if he/she is going to steal your money in the end?
Which human rights will you prioritize, the criminals’ or the victims’? Of course, we all want a justice system that protects the rights of BOTH the accused and the victim. That’s an ideal society and we surely want it. But if the system is plagued with corruption and incompetence, and evil is embedded within, then society must resort not just to reform but revolt. Notably, tough discipline doesn’t equate to stifling of civil liberties. Davao certainly is as free as any city in the country, even freer as her citizens don’t have to fear being mugged or killed.
If “human rights” means giving convicted felons access to fully-furnished rooms, weapons, drugs, and money inside the prison, then we’re fucked as a nation. In this country, having hardened criminals behind bars won’t do any difference because they still run their syndicates from inside their cells and can still acquire luxuries. With a corrupted judiciary, is justice really served even after throwing criminals in jail?
With regards to his morality, are we even close to having a candidate who has both high moral standards and an equally high capacity to deliver? Is there even someone out there who has the guts to owe up to his mistakes and apologize for them? Show me someone who can put his money where his mouth is. Haven’t we learned yet from electing seemingly kind (mabait) candidates who despite having an angelic reputation has failed to deliver on their capacity as a leader? A person who hits on someone’s morality despite being imperfect himself is no different from the tsismosa who never fails to attend mass every Sunday yet never misses a beat to gossip on her fellows.
Take a look at where Davao City is right now. It’s just a mere two-hour flight from Imperial Manila. Roam the streets, ask the people, try out the several businesses that set up shop there. Does it appear that Mindanao’s largest commercial hub is ruled by an incompetent, corrupt leader? Does the populace seem unhappy with their local government? Duterte revealed how much money he has in the bank: PHP6M. Part of that money came from his father, part of it from his forty years in the government. Imagine, forty years and yet he only has PHP6M. He lives in a simple middle-class house. His only indulgence is a collection of shoes (but certainly not as big and Imeldific as Imelda’s). He drapes a mosquito net over his bed because he does not use the air-conditioner. Outside, there’s a unit of Holiday Taxi (unit number 688) which his friends donated years ago so he could patrol the streets incognito and at the same time take in extra income the legal way. Duterte had said before that he needs to drive a taxi at night because his salary as a mayor isn’t enough to cover for his wife’s cancer treatment. On the contrary, there are elected officials who have tripled their net worth even before ending their first terms.
Mind you, he’s not going to be another Marcos. He hasn’t amassed questionable wealth. Duterte wants to get rid of criminals, syndicates, corrupt officials, or as he simply calls it “the enemies of the people.” Marcos’ martial law is all about getting rid of political opponents, sticking into power, and gain from dirty profits.
Times are changing and so are the pressing needs to keep this country in shape. There are values that we hold on dearly that defines us as a nation and a caring, loving people. But when it comes to societal matters, all of us are just concerned with ourselves. We shout for change yet many don’t want to change their ways. Many are happy with the status quo where the coffers of the rich get bigger, the stomachs of the poor churn in pain because of hunger, the politicians continue to make the treasury their cashcow. Many are asking what could be the cure for all these malaise? Yet whenever a spoonful of bitter medicine is handed to our mouths, we refuse to budge. We also need to reform our constitution to a federal system to better suit our country’s diverse needs yet even that raises eyebrows from those who refuse to have real change. For crying out loud, we have inherited a constitution that is fit for running a colony but not for running a nation.
Federalism is Duterte’s main objective for the Philippines yet it is also one of the most feared by individuals and business in Imperial Manila. Federalism will bring development and opportunities to the regions, in contrast with the current centralized political and economic system which mainly focuses on Metro Manila. Politicians owe businessmen (or better yet, their cronies) a great debt of gratitude because of political, economic, and personal incentives that they would get. Now that the regions will be able to develop themselves because their profits won’t have to go the national treasury (and allocate them with minuscule budgets in return), political cronies now fear for their future. And it is something that Manileños would not definitely like. The regions will now have a say on their economic development without interference or having to wait for approval from Manila. As Visayans would often say, “Wa'y dahong mahulog sa atung nasud nga di mananghid sa Malacañang“ (Not a leaf can fall in our country without Malacañang’s permission). Gone are the days that the rest of the country is neglected. This is real inclusive economic growth.
Lee Kuan Yew, modern Singapore’s father, may have been right about us. “The Philippines doesn’t need democracy; they need discipline.” Discipline is something that we utterly lack as a people. We won’t move if not prodded. We won’t take initiative unless there is an ulterior motive. What is it that we fear about discipline? Again, as I have said, tough discipline doesn’t equate to stifling of civil liberties. Take a look at Davao again. They have a vibrant press scene, a cosmopolitan lifestyle, yet all their actions are bound to discipline. It is living by the motto that there is a right time for everything.
On a penultimate note, it will not be Duterte’s nor the Davaoeños loss in case he loses the presidency. He can just go home and continue minding over the affairs of his beloved city. “Hindi naman ako mamamatay kung hindi ako maging presidente.” It will be our loss. Davaoeños and his fellow Visayans will laugh at us, the spoiled brats of Imperial Manila, as we continue to languish in horrendous traffic, terrible crime statistics, and rampant corruption.
Just before I end, let me ask you the following questions. You want change? Sure, you do. But are you willing to change? Do you really know what kind of leadership is in store for us in case he wins? Are you ready for it? Because if you’re only riding the bandwagon, better get off as early as now. Bawal magreklamo kung sakaling ayaw mo pala sa kanyang estilo.