Get real
Philippine Daily Inquirer, 4 June 2016


The antics, and I use the term deliberately, of President-elect Rodrigo Duterte are getting tiresome. In less than a month after the elections, he has managed to offend the Church, the media, women, the international community, human rights advocates, and law-abiding Filipinos with his comments and his actions. He calls to mind a spoiled child who has been let loose without any kind of parental control, to do whatever damage he can.

And he seems to be enjoying himself in the process, and even knows that he is “ranting and raving”—the description he uses.

His defenders say he has “no bad intentions.” But the road to hell is paved with good intentions, as the saying goes.

Although he refuses to be named, my caller has paid his dues, as far as the country is concerned. He was an active freedom fighter during the Marcos dictatorship, and a member of the legal organization FLAG (Free Legal Assistance Group). I am sure he knows that Duterte was not the only Filipino president elected by only a plurality of the votes. So what could have caused his agitation?

It finally dawned on me that this was my caller’s way of giving the Filipino people as a whole a chance to save face, to distance themselves from the disgraceful actions and remarks of Duterte. A chance to tell one another and the international community: Hey, this dude doesn’t really represent us, or the way we think, and feel, and act, because he was elected by only a minority of us. My caller was actually reminding us that it is not our fault. Consuelo de bobo.

If I am correct, this does not augur very well for Duterte’s administration.

But if Duterte’s antics are disgraceful, there are others who should be equally denounced, if not more so, for doing damage to the Filipino people.

Take the Liberal Party, or most of its members. They immediately deserted what they thought was a sinking ship, to join the ranks of the Duterte group. Only consider, Reader: The LP won 38.7 percent, or about 115, of the seats in the House, compared to PDP-Laban’s 1 percent, or all of three seats. Yet within one week after the elections, the Duterte faction managed to ensure the House speakership for the person anointed by Duterte, helped by 80 of the 115 Liberals.

Why don’t I denounce the Nationalist People’s Coalition, or the Nacionalista Party, and the like as well? Because they, as political parties, formed a coalition with the Duterte camp. The Liberals, thinking only of themselves (chairmanships bring a lot of perks, including monetary) and not of their constituents (after all, they were elected as Liberals), just jumped ship.

Two things are noteworthy here: Duterte named his choice of Speaker. Since when did the president (the head of the executive branch) get to choose the head of the legislative branch with such impunity? Yet it was accepted, without a murmur, by the general public. What happened to the separation of powers, to checks and balances?

The second thing is that party defections of this magnitude also caused no reaction from the electorate. We have not matured since 1992, when the same thing occurred under
Fidel V. Ramos. Consider, Reader, that this was all of 24 years ago. It seems we have not matured politically. How, then, can we even consider a parliamentary system, when one of its requisites is a strong party system?

Also to be denounced is the obvious, and continuing, perversion of the party-list system. This brilliant idea of the framers of our Constitution was intended to democratize political power, to give a chance to marginalized groups or sectors to run for Congress, and win. Why, then, are some of those party-lists represented by billionaires, or the wives, sons and brothers of traditional politicians? What is the Commission on Elections doing about it?

But let’s not end this column on a low note. I do have some good news. I was in Cebu recently for the TV show “Bawal ang Pasaway.” I learned there that the Garcia family of Cebu fielded eight of its members for political positions: five brothers and sisters, a grandchild, and two cousins. The good news is that only four won—a small victory against political dynasties.

Winston Garcia lost the governorship to Junjun Davide. The loss is notable for two reasons: One, it showed that the use of money did not influence the results. And two, the loser (Garcia), was gracious in defeat. He conceded, despite the small difference in votes.

Then there’s Tommy Osmeña, the mayor-elect of Cebu City. Talking about political dynasties, did you know that when his third term ended in 2010, he did not give in to pressure to have his wife run in his place? He allowed his vice mayor to run. And when his sister decided to run for mayor, he did not support her. He remained true to his word.

Of course, he ran against that same vice mayor this time. But he is against political dynasties. He is the epitome of a non-trapo.

We have a lot to learn from the Cebuanos—politicians and ordinary folk alike.