A week after his landslide presidential victory, Rodrigo “Digong” Duterte’s Cabinet is shaping up as a mixture of business leaders, leftists, communists, political allies and personal friends. On the surface it looks like a broad-spectrum government reaching out to all sectors of the country. That’s good… at least on paper. But a closer scrutiny reveals a master chess player who is lining up his pieces adroitly to achieve “tunay na pagbabago” – real change – which he promised during the campaign.
Indeed, Duterte is already raising eyebrows in political circles. While there are the usual skeptics, the reactions are overwhelmingly positive with people hoping that he’d deliver on his promises, which detractors say are impossible to accomplish. But to the common people – the masa – they welcome the radical changes that he vowed to make, which begs the question: Can he deliver? Or are these just promises meant to be broken… just like what traditional politicians – trapos – do all the time?
But the people are too forgiving – and forgetful — and continue to elect trapos year after year. But this time around, they demonstrated their frustration and anger at the political establishment by voting for a man who admittedly used unorthodox methods, to say it mildly, to rid Davao City of crimes during his term as mayor for two decades.
During a campaign rally, he vowed to kill criminals, saying: “The drug pushers, kidnappers, robbers, find them all and arrest them. If they resist, kill them all.” To emphasize his point, he told the crowd, “Go ahead and charge me with murder, so I could also kill you.” At another rally, he promised to “take out” 100,000 criminals and dump them in the Manila Bay so “fish will grow fat.”
Ordinarily, people would cringe at this kind of vulgarity. But to those who are fed up with the impunity of criminality and corruption, his blunt warnings give them hope that finally there is one fearless leader who is determined to do whatever it would take to protect the people.
Indeed, if one is to characterize Duterte’s landslide – nay, tsunami – victory over his four rivals, it’s a protest vote against the corrupt government that the people believed had betrayed the sacred covenant of the EDSA People Power Revolution 30 years ago. The people see Duterte as someone who has the guts to do the unconventional way to achieve social justice.
While Duterte’s overwhelming victory on Election Day may be deemed as a mandate to pursue the things he promised by whatever means he’d chose, there is the danger of failure, which could end his reign as dramatic as his rise to power. He promised early in his campaign that he would eradicate crime and corruption in three to six months, which the people took hook, line and sinker. They pinned their hopes on this singular promise and expected him to deliver, not a day longer than six months. But what if he failed?
A failure six months into his presidency could wreck his administration beyond repair, just like what happened to his three predecessors, one of which was ousted and another one is currently in detention facing plunder charges, which makes one wonder: Short of declaring martial law, what’s his game plan?
Recently, he unveiled an seven-point economic agenda. His plan includes: (1) Initiate reforms in tax revenue collections; (2) Attract foreign investors; (3) Provide support services to farmers to increase productivity, provide irrigation services to them, and promote tourism in rural areas; (4) Address bottlenecks in our land administration and management system; (5) Strengthen basic education system; (6) Improve tax system by indexing tax collection to inflation rate; and (7) Expand and improve implementation of the conditional cash transfer (CCT) program.
It’s a good economic plan and it is doable. However, its success hinges on the elimination of corruption. He promised that his administration would vigorously prosecute those who engage in corrupt practices.
Can he fire and prosecute his Cabinet members and their underlings, most of whom are his political allies or personal friends, if they engage in corruption? Can he stop jueteng, which he promised to do, and prosecute the jueteng lords who are protected by powerful politicians?
If he has the political will to punish erring subordinates, then he would win half the battle. If so, we would see some of his appointees’ heads rolling within six months because there would always be those who would be tempted by the aphrodisiacal smell of dirty money. If not, he could kiss his promises goodbye and govern the country just like some of his predecessors — that is, corrupt to the core.