Duterte won’t be able to govern at all
By Andrew Lim
If you are a diehard Duterte supporter, save your breath and ammo because this article deals with a post- election scenario where Duterte has won. It does not aim to sway your vote. This article is for the 70% + electorate split among different candidates and the uninvolved, who will need to mobilize post-election for a common cause.
Duterte has successfully manipulated media attention so that certain sectors of society salivate at the idea of “change” even if he does not provide details on how it will be effected. The masses have been convinced of his poverty/crime/traffic-solving skills; the middle and upper class has bought into his promise of better crime management and security. Never mind the details and the principles.
The undeclared bank deposits may not affect his numbers much, having come so late and framed in the context of a hotly contested election. He is still likely to win. But it will not go away during his presidency and could form the basis of an impeachment.
Duterte’s situation brings to mind a former mayor who became President. Estrada won with nearly 40% of the vote and his style shares some commonalities with Duterte.
On a humorous note, there is something about former mayors becoming (or aspiring) head of state in the Philippine experience (Aguinaldo, Estrada, Binay) . They may attain cult hero status initially but are despised later in their term or later in historical accounts as corrupt and incompetent. Peter principle?
Parallels with the Estrada presidency:
Habitual tardiness – On many occasions, he has arrived late, but disarms the audience with his lewd jokes, repeated references to his manliness and his low regard for women. He then runs out of time for the more substantive Q & A and avoids scrutiny.
Empty policy speeches – He has never given a speech with substantial details on how he intends to carry things out. His Makati Business Club speech was as unsubstantial as always. The Club’s spokespersons were polite, but essentially they were asking: where’s the beef? All the public gets are one-liner, aw shucks, smart aleck statements.
Incoherent statements and messages – This early, Duterte’s statements frequently do not match his spokespersons’. In the Estrada presidency, even heavyweights like Jerry Barican and Rod Reyes were often reduced to looking ridiculous. Incidentally, the presence of Lito Banayo as political advisor speaks volumes on how this presidency will be run ala Estrada style.
The latest one is Peter Lavina denying the existence of the BPI Julia Vargas account, adding it does not make sense that a Davao-based Duterte would open an account in Pasig. Well, he has eaten his words.
On China, he has naively said that he will go bilateral, as if geopolitics was an usapang-kanto kind of thing. Eventually he back-pedaled on it, saying he now supports the arbitration. Railways in exchange for the West Philippine Sea? Please. And we need not discuss the idiocy of that jetski remark.
We also need not stoop to the level of his “cut ties with the US and Australia” statement.
On Philhealth, Duterte uttered a false statement on Philhealth benefits in Davao which the agency has refuted.
He intends to revive the steel industry, which does not make sense with the demand and price of steel in the global market collapsing. But watch RJTV 29 and you may have an explanation. Who’s a major supporter who owns steel interests in the country?
Which brings me to the greater horror in a Duterte presidency: It is not his heavy handedness and penchant for violence but his incompetence at this level. The strong armed policies can be checked by the Supreme Court, the Ombudsman, Sandiganbayan, Congress, human rights organizations, the Church, civil society, academe and the global community. But his incompetence in economic management will be devastating. He has admitted to this deficiency and will unabashedly copy other leaders’ programs. Nothing wrong with copying effective programs, but will they mesh? Is he capable of integrating them all?
In a Duterte presidency, the Cabinet economic secretaries will become de facto policy makers, since the President will be incompetent in these matters. The country may catch a break if he appoints competent people of integrity, but will they gel together? Who’s going to run the show if numero uno is empty headed? And where does the buck stop?
Ending contractualization may sound sexy, but wait till we get to the details on its ramifications. It’s like Bernie Sanders’ mantra of “break up the banks”, but comes up empty when asked how it’s going to be done.
Almost all the major political parties participating in this election – LP, UNA, Poe/NP are now training their guns on Duterte as a last ditch effort. But I cannot see them aligning themselves with Duterte even after the elections. The gap – both moral and political, is too wide to breach. Organically, they will unite for a common cause.
What is Duterte going to do? Woo them with pork? That flies in the face of his campaign promise of “change”. Now if Duterte goes nuclear and turns to oppressive measures just to stay in power then that will be the day his presidency ends.
Nearly all the major sectors, the ones with the most leverage post-election, have been alienated by Duterte and are highly unlikely to take his side when he is President: Congress, judiciary/SC, academe, civil society, international community, public intellectuals, human rights organizations, media, business community. The military is unlikely to support Duterte’s goal of “sending tanks and destroying Congress.”
You may say: he has the support of the 30+%. But remember that Estrada’s voters didn’t have any leverage anymore post-election. What could they do when Estrada got impeached?
P. S. As I finish this piece, news comes of impeached Chief Justice Corona’s demise comes out, reminding us again of undeclared assets in the SALN. An omen of things to come?