Congratulations are in order to Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte for his phenomenal win as the next Philippine President. I don’t think even he anticipated he was going to win or even if he did, he probably didn’t think he was going to win by more than 6 million votes. His numbers have surpassed that of incumbent President Benigno Simeon Aquino who was considered popular when he won back in 2010.
Duterte’s win is pretty remarkable. For someone who confirmed his candidacy in the last hour of filing of certificate of candidacy in October 2015, the rise of his popularity is one for the books. I certainly did not see it coming. After all, Duterte does not belong to the elite club of Imperial Manila. A lot of people underestimated him especially the members of the Liberal Party and their supporters. Some of them — one Cynthia Patag — even said that for Duterte to win, he needed to work on his Visaya accent because for her, it is such a turn off to a lot of voters. She was certainly wrong about that too.
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Duterte’s supporters managed to look past his Visayan accent, casual demeanor and especially his foul mouth. Instead, his supporters focused on his personality, which some say is what made Davao City what it is today – orderly and relatively peaceful for a city in Mindanao, a region rife with tensions between militants and government forces. While I would have liked that the voters look at the candidates’ platforms, they were, instead, taken by their character.
Aside from surpassing BS Aquino’s number of votes, Duterte looks like he will likewise overshadow the incumbent’s performance in more ways than one. Duterte has already announced that his first order of business is to issue an executive order to implement the Freedom of Information Bill:
“Kung ayaw ng Congress, I will start with this progressively. Para walang satsat, walang yakyak, Day One, Freedom of Information, I will impose it on my department, the executive department,” Duterte told reporters in an interview.
“Unahan ko na. I will issue an executive order. Hindi na kailangan ng batas…. Media and everybody else is welcome to dig deep into the papers,” he added.
That was the same bill BS Aquino promised to pass during his campaign but decided not to prioritize as soon as he was elected in office. That was the first evidence that his Daang Matuwid wasn’t really meant to be transparent. Throughout his term, the public was in the dark about his policies. BS Aquino was in the habit of giving surprises like when he negotiated with Muslim Rebel group Moro Islamic Liberation Front for the so-called Bangsamoro Basic Law, which turned out to have unconstitutional provisions. BS Aquino also used public funds illegally to buy favors from members of Congress. He disguised this by using fancy terms such as Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) and Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) to deceive the public into believing they were legitimate programs.
Hopefully, this tradition of bribing Congress will end with Duterte since he doesn’t like Congress and even said on record that he plans to abolish it. Some people probably voted for him because of that. It’s always been a standard joke that Congress is useless. A lot of the members do not even attend regular sessions. Congressman and Boxing champ Manny Pacquiao only attended four times in 2015. He got away with it because Filipinos love watching him box in the ring in Vegas.
Some of us may not like his foul mouth but I can see already that he will be an improvement over BS Aquino. It seems he will be choosing better-qualified cabinet members outside of his clan. We can say goodbye to BS Aquino’s allies dubbed KKK (Kaibigan, Kaklase at Kabarilan). Filipinos can rejoice with the thought that Deparment of Transportation and Comminications Secretary Jun Abaya and Manila International Airport Authority General Manager Angel Honrado will be replaced soon. The new GM should put an end to the bullet-planting scam that has been traumatizing local and international travellers to the Philippines for years.
The good thing about Duterte not hiring family and friends as his cabinet is he won’t have qualms about firing them if they are not effective. Proof of this is when he said he is willing to kill his own children if they get caught using drugs. There should be less blatant practice of patronage politics in Duterte administration.
A lot of Duterte’s critics especially coming from the Liberal Party supporters talk about their fears of blood spilling on the streets due to his promise to kill criminals. They probably shouldn’t take him too literally. Or should we? We are not entirely sure how Duterte is going to do this without getting in trouble with the law himself. We have to wait for his detailed plan of action in reducing crime in “three to six months time”.
Frankly, it’s getting quite annoying to read members of foreign media comparing Duterte to US billionaire and Presidential candidate Donald Trump. While both are provocateurs, Duterte is not a racist. He also plans to work on negotiating peace with Muslim rebel groups in Midnanao. Meanwhile, Trump is creating further division in American society by alienating Mexicans and Muslims. Plus Trump never held public office in his life.
Duterte has promised to behave as soon as he is sworn into office as President. This is something people who are worried about his penchant for swearing are hoping he would do. One thing is for sure though, there are people who are already looking forward to his plan to ban loud karaoke singing after 10 pm. People can finally get some peace and quiet at night.
In life, things are not always what they seem.