Can Duterte unite and heal the nation?


A people so sharply divided on the personal merits and fitness of Davao strongman Rodrigo Duterte are now called upon to come together as one nation under God and under incoming President Duterte. This is the first paradox and order of the day after June 30. How will Duterte lead, and what kind of change will he pursue? These are but the first two most important questions.

How will he lead?
In his most significant pre-election statement during the presidential debates, Duterte said, “I will provide leadership. I will probably borrow some ideas from the others, but I will lead.” Neither Mar Roxas, nor Grace Poe Llamanzares, nor Jejomar Binay, nor Miriam Defensor Santiago said anything like it.

He elaborated on this, by assuring his audience in subsequent statements that if ever he promised to do anything he would certainly do it. He would end crime and corruption soon after taking office; end the hated contractualization of workers, which has deprived millions of security in their jobs, as one of his first acts in office.

To gain credence for his avowed agenda, he narrated how as Davao city mayor he personally led police raids where he shot hardened criminals while resisting arrest or shooting it out with the police. His vivid retelling of his own exploits drew applause from his admirers, but also harsh rebukes from his critics in the social media and elsewhere–mainly for their street-spoken vulgarities.

Not a one-man job
Yet those who were wont to shout down his critics for daring to criticize him tended to imagine him as some kind of super-hero, who would single-handedly hunt down criminals as President of the 12th most populous country on earth with the same ease as when he was the motorcycle-riding city mayor of Davao. They seem to believe it would be easier for the President to physically eliminate criminals and terrorists, just because he has declared abolishing crime and terrorism as his first priority. The opposite could be true.

Pistol-packing President?
As head of state and Commander-in-Chief of all the armed forces of the Philippines, he may no longer even pack a Magnum 38 or a Caliber 45, for his own self-defense. He could have hunting rifles and all sorts of weapons for target practice, if he likes to hunt or shoot, but he could no longer arm himself to lead a police raid. He may have to learn from the late former President Ferdinand Marcos.

In his last years in office, Marcos, a celebrated war hero and gun enthusiast, went to the Cancun summit wearing a .22 caliber under his belt. This showed on the security cameras and he had to hand it over to the security desk. But it unhappily also landed on the front page of The New York Times. I had left the Cabinet by then, but I told Marcos it was wrong for a president to wear a gun even for his own self-defense.

The risk of being assassinated is a right that comes with the office, I said; the secret service is there precisely to protect the President. Imagine if the President outdrew an assassin, the headlines would read–“President outdraws and kills assassin,” I said. On the other hand, if the assassin was quicker, the headlines would read, “Assassin outdraws and kills the President.” In either case, the headlines would not be too flattering for the President, I said. Marcos chuckled, saying I was out of my mind, but I believe he saw the point.

So we should not expect the next President and Commander-in-Chief to be personally killing criminals even in a police shootout. We should also be prepared to understand Duterte’s “three to six months” deadline for ending corruption and crime in the same way we understand the Biblical reference to “seven days” as the length of time God created the universe and everything in it. I don’t believe we should literally hold him on to his three to six months promise.

It would be a miracle if it happened, but it should be sufficient for us to see Duterte doing everything humanly possible to end corruption and crime, regardless of its results. After all, crime, notably transnational crime, is a multi-headed hydra that has spread its tentacles around the country for many years now. It will take more than human strength to slay the beast.

As candidate, Duterte fascinated and thrilled his supporters with his spicy and vulgar speech that dismayed and offended tender sensibilities. That performance will have to end now. Duterte’s supporters who were hypnotized by the risque and vulgar language must now allow him to develop the statesmanly manners and discourse of a head of state. It is not easy to abandon longtime habits, but for God and country, it can be done, and he should do it.

Using the Cabinet
Duterte will have to make full use of his Cabinet in the way Aquino and his late mother failed to use theirs. He will have to encourage the best ideas to come from the Cabinet, acting as a Cabinet, rather than as a bunch of cronies or cheering squad whose job it is to humor the President for their own purposes.

The best way to do this is, first, to appoint to the Cabinet only the best qualified men and women who are willing to give their all without any thought of reward; second, to allow the Cabinet to make collegial decisions on major issues rather than allow each Department Head to make individual decisions without Cabinet consultations and just have the Cabinet ratify those decisions later by default.

The Marcos Cabinet continues to be cited as arguably the best our country ever had. This was probably because Marcos was also arguably the most brilliant President our country ever had; he was never afraid to appoint people who might even be brighter than he was. He did not need to be the brightest man in the room, because of his sheer position. So he did not discourage anyone from speaking out in Cabinet meetings, or outside. As management experts put it, the good manager should not mind being “the dumbest man in the room;” if he turns out to the brightest of the lot, then it only means he did not choose his people well.

Results-driven, mission oriented
That said, the President must let his people work according to their best lights, without attempting to micro-manage them. Everyone must be results-driven and mission-oriented, based on the soundest moral and legal precepts. This means the President must have a way of keeping track of his people’s performance, even without listening to their self-serving reports, and without getting in their way either.

In my 10 years in the Marcos Cabinet, which entailed speaking for the government every single day, and running a two-way information program worldwide, there was only one time the President spoke to me about my work. On the day I took my oath of office on August 16, 1969, he simply said, “I will depend upon you, carry on.” That served as my perpetual marching order every single day for the next 10 years. I resigned in 1980 for political reasons——the only Cabinet member to do so on his own, six years before the EDSA revolt. My department was abolished after I left.

In my own experience, Marcos’s extraordinary relationship with his Cabinet explains the enduring qualities of his best years in office. Hopefully, the same good fortune would favor the incoming President.

Now, what kind of change will he pursue?

Duterte has whetted his supporters’ appetite for change. And he has spoken of system change. One of his earliest statements was that he would establish a revolutionary government. Then he began to speak of federalism. These are large ideas.

By definition, a revolutionary government is the product of a revolution, not of a general election. Many feared that if Duterte had been cheated, in the same way that the vice presidential shoo-in, Ferdinand (Bongbong) Marcos Jr., is currently being cheated, he would mount a people’s revolt and declare a “revolutionary government.”

This is what the military did in 1986 after their US- and civilian-assisted coup ousted Marcos, and they decided to install Cory Aquino into power, despite her having lost the snap presidential election against Marcos earlier.

No more revolutionary govt
But that option was completely vaporized after Duterte won the unofficial count, and against all fearful forecasts, all his major rivals conceded their defeat. On June 30, he will have to take his oath as President and take command of the government, while B. S. Aquino 3rd awaits his uncertain fate. Should he for any reason still decide to declare a revolutionary government, he would be ousting a duly elected government, and the people and the Armed Forces of the Philippines who had supported him until now might be compelled to go against him.

We can therefore safely write off a revolutionary government for the moment.

What about federalism? This is a popular advocacy not only in Mindanao. In 1982, I wrote one of the first political party platforms, if not indeed the very first platform, proposing a shift to the federal from the unitary system. This happened when Reuben Canoy and I organized the Social Democratic Party, a few months before Nene Pimentel and his group founded the PDP, which has become Duterte’s vehicle in this election.

But such a shift requires a revision of the Constitution, not a mere executive order or congressional legislation. This is an elaborate exercise, which cannot be done overnight.

Under the 1987 Constitution, any amendment or revision of the Constitution may be proposed by the Congress upon a vote of three-fourths of all its Members, or by a constitutional convention called by Congress upon a vote of two-thirds of all its Members or by the people themselves upon the recommendation of a majority of all the Members of Congress.

Since the President is not even mentioned in this provision, Duterte will have to work discreetly through his allies in Congress if he wants to push through federalism. This is how the cookie crumbles.

Meaningful change
But system change is meaningless unless it seeks to enlarge the people’s right to participate in running their own political and economic affairs, based upon a universal obligation to obey the moral law. Such a change envisions a change in political and economic structures which should lead to a more equitable distribution of political and economic power, and free the enslaved from their chains. But it presupposes above all an inner change in man, to raise his capacity to distinguish right from wrong, good from evil, justice from injustice and the will to choose the affirmative values. The change is primarily and essentially moral before it is anything else.

NTC proposal
This is the system change which the National Transformation Council, composed of moral and spiritual leaders from the Catholic, Protestant/Evangelical and Islamic churches and citizen servant-leaders, has been eagerly but peacefully trying to promote these last five years. It is an agenda for strengthening the moral and spiritual foundations and fabric of the nation. It is an antidote to totalitarian despotism, which celebrates power at the expense of justice, reason, and God’s Law. It is not against anyone except perhaps the devil and the damned.

Duterte and his people would be well-advised to look into this program if they wish to heal and unite the nation. It is the path less traveled by, but the surest way to reach our commonly desired immediate and distant goal.

Erratum: In my Thursday column, I wanted to say Duterte’s victory made sure a former American citizen of no known parentage would “not” be sitting as our President. The omission of the word “not” failed to convey that meaning. My apologies.


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  1. Bibi Ballesty on

    Politicking should be over. It is time to work for the good of the country. We must help our new President to succeed and not hope that he will fail. Let us PRAY for his discernment – so that the Holy Spirit will guide him to get the right qualified people with integrity and with good honorable intentions to run the government. We hope we can stop the negativism so we can help our President by making constructiive suggestions.After all, Duterte’s success will be the Filipino people’s success, too.

  2. For all his bull sheet can he free that Canadian and Norwegian hostage?….And the Gloria hostage?…do that i will believe.

  3. I think majority of our sovereign people agree Pres Duderte declare revolutionary government in order all these corrupt n incompetent politician shall be replace. Yes we agree you declare revolunary government he can bade on the case if BBM been cheated. Do it Pres Duterte we ate behind on your action do thatbwe have change and this yellow cult shall reprimand for many wrong action they have done.

  4. Dear Mr. Tatad,

    Please note, I am an avid fun reading your column, as well as those columns of mainly Capampangan {like myself} I mentioned from my first email to you.

    There is one issue though that I would want our government {agricultural sector} to look into closely and perhaps to arrange for some agricultural scientists to visit Singapore, Vietnam, and Thailand among other South East Asian countries.

    I am suggesting this for the following reasons:

    * Having been in Saudi Arabia for almost 36 years {20 years, Eastern Province & Riyadh 16 years}…the rice varieties that are available in the market are mainly from Thailand and lately from Vietnam!!! The taste of these…cannot be compared even to
    our best varieties!!! Please have somebody checked if this variety is available in the Philippine…”LOTUS” from Vietnam and try it!

    * Secondly since I have my own satellite channel {beInSPORT} , there is a channel, NatGeo People that features mainly food from countries all over the world including Asian countries, and of course the Philippines. But what is significant from this channel is when it featured the agricultural sector of Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. It is almost unbelievable their scientific ways of producing agricultural products from fishery, rice, vegetables and poultry!!! When one sees such special programmes… we cannot help but say..”Why can’t we Pilipinos as a nation, do the same…when we always boast of our IRRI at Los Banos!

    It is frustrating to say the least!!!

    Thank you, Mr. Tatad… “keep up the good work…and most especially…the FAITH”!


  5. Rudi Miranda on

    Congratulations! Thank you! Kind, yet honest words composed beautifully like the 9th Symphony of Beethoven. //I don’t believe we should literally hold him on to his three to six months promise.// I like the thought… it gives enough space to expand the mind.

  6. arnel rollan on

    instead of senseless talking of this and that ,how about waiting for the first hundred days, and attack at will if the president did nothing for the citizens as he promised? i think this would be fair enough.

    • I am sure this guy is going to attacked Duterte. Nobody is a good leader for except himself. This guy has a lot of mental problems. I do not read his column. This guy attacked Grace Poe and she has not done anything wrong. Maybe he will be scared with Duterte. He can only bad mouth women. With men, he is a coward.

  7. Marcos had a bunch of loyal cabinet even willing to die for him because he enriched them with enormous wealth taken from the purse of the Filipino people. He showered them with lavish gifts and expensive parties while the Filipino people wallowed in abject poverty. This was the Marcos leadership that you served!

  8. Senator Tatad, I remember Duterte having mentioned that he will go around the country explaining Federalism and this would be followed by a plebiscite. If the plebiscite shows that people want Federalism then it becomes very clear that congress should take steps to convene a constitutional convention. Later, Duterte said he would create a committee to do the task of informing the people of Federalism.

  9. Amnata Pundit on

    His first task is to unite the military, the police and the people behind him, then he can deliver everything that he promised.

    • Eddy Frayna on

      The military, the people and the people- the military and the police toting guns to the people! That is what you’re implying if not saying. That is not within the bound of our Constitution and democratic process.

    (due to FAILURE of ELECTION)

    Even if a landslide victory is already obvious for Mayor Duterte, I would still prefer him declare a Revolutionary government due to failure of election (VP & Senate). Both the LEGISLATIVE (Congress/Senate) JUDICIARY, and COMELEC are still control by PNoy/LP (oligarch). It’s always better to start fresh (from zero) rather accept the mess or garbage. How can the new President/government say and guarantee that “CHANGE is COMING”? and fullfill his promise to implement the following:

    1. End to Contractualization
    2. Freedom Of Information bilI
    3. Federalism/Parliamentary
    4. Lower Tax

  11. lamon lamon on

    Siniraan mo ng siniraan Mr. Tatad si Senator Grace Poe pero ang umani ng tagumpay ay iba si Duterte .Hindi ang manok mo na si Binay at hindi rin nakamit ni Elamparo’s candidate Roxas ang pagkapresidente .May kasabihan nga honesty is the best policy .Why did Mr. Neil LLamanzares and Brian Poe LLamanzares able to vote ? Ha,ha lol ang tao nga naman basta na lang manira-manira ng kapwa basta may bayad ha? Kahit hindi nila alam ang pinagsasabi mo.Saan mo nga ipapadeport si Niel ? Sana ikaw na lang ang ipadeport sa Spratley Island ni President Duterte sa June 2016.

  12. Even if a landslide victory is already obvious for Mayor Duterte, I would still prefer him declare a Revolutionary government due to failure of election (VP & Senate. Because both the LEGISLATIVE (Congress/Senate) and JUDICIARY are still controlled by PNoy/LP (oligarch). It’s always better to start fresh (from zero) rather accept the mess or garbage.

  13. “…We should also be prepared to understand Duterte’s “three to six months” deadline for ending corruption and crime in the same way we understand the Biblical reference to “seven days” as the length of time God created the universe and everything in it. I don’t believe we should literally hold him on to his three to six months promise.”

    Yes, I agree. Some of us are just irrational, taking his word literally. For me, as long as he is making headway, it is already a big accomplishment. One thing bears watching. How will he treat big corrupt politicians who shift loyalties to those who are in power? There are many of them, and Sen. Drilon comes to mind. Can he do to Drilon and for that matter, his ilk in LP what Pnoy did to PGMA, JPE, Bong Revilla and Jinggoy Estrada? Just remember, the sins of these politicians being protected by Pnoy are sins against the nation and the Filipino people.

  14. Maybe its better to share this on Duterte’s wall for his reference and guidance. Speaking of Pres. Marcos, I was able to watch a talk show with former senator Eddie Ilarde as guest and he said that what he admired about president Marcos was that “He listens” and it didnt matter whether it came from opposition. I think that is one of the most important character of a leader. Thank you sen. Kit for writing this article. I always follow your story in Manila Times.

    • It just one person’s opinion from the millions of Filipinos. Eddie Ilarde does not represent most of the Filipinos. For every favorable statement, you can also find an unfavorable opinion.

  15. N0 NO NO! This stoogie is also a cast of this CIRCUS THEY CALLED ELECTION. He is definitely a man of the Yellow Regime. Now, his true color has surfaced already. It’s very obvious that they cheated BBM, yet he won’t even lift a finger to denounce this anomaly. Worst, he allowed his running mate Cayetano to concede to Robredo while the counting is still going on and the COMELEC says there is no clear winner yet because the difference of the figures between the two are so close. Nasaan na yon mga pagmumura niya noong kampanya? Bakit hindi niya mamura si Cayetano? It’s obvious that Cayetano has Duterte’s clearance when he conceded that’s why Duterte is TAMEME of this cheating incident. .
    Healing the nation? NO! Duterte just placed salt to our wounds. He is part and parcel of the Yellow Regime and worst he is just after his own selfish interest. THIS IS HIS FIRST TEST, AND DUTERTE MISERABLY FAILED! THE DAANG MATUWID IS TO CONTINUE…….NIGHTMARE

    • dakila, hindi naman ganun. si cayetano ay may sariling sirang este pagiisip. hindi naman siguro sasabihan sya ni du30 ng kanyang gagawin pagkat sa ngayon si du30 ay naghahanap ng mga taong iluluklok nya sa pwesto sa ehekutibo.

    • Im not sure what you’re drinking, Dakila, but I’m pretty sure I dont want any of it.


  17. Micro managing is the dumbest system of a leader who thinks he is better than his experienced officials. No cabinet official shall be chosen base on loyalty. Experience, intelligence, integrity shall be the bases in choosing associates to cook up viable decisions. “YES” men shall be bared from entering conference room. Men with ideas shall be heard. No matter how s2pid the idea sounds.
    Federalism is 99.69% supported by the citizens. It is that wisdom of foul mouthed old dork to successfully conquered Malacanang. Duterte is Pwe! if his Federalism does not come into reality. But he will be hero beyond death if the dream come true. I only care about security through peace and order and most of all, local empowerment for my children by Federalism.

    • Most of the cabinet members will be persons close to Duterte. The fact is loyalty carries the most weight in selecting members of his cabinet. Of course, they should be qualified too, but that is secondary. It’s just a fact of life. Why would he appoint somebody whose loyalty he doubts?

  18. Paano Nya ma heal yung nation natin Na Meron threat to impeach him ng mga yellowtards? Inaantay Lang yata ng mga yellowtards Na makaupo si Robredo as VP then tuloy Na yung Plan B ng mga yellowtards. E yung threat pa ng kudeta? Sa tingin ko bloody Ito bago Magkaroon ng total healing Sa bansa natin. Iba si Duterte Sa mga nakaraan Na mga presidente at tutuluyan ka Nya at Hindi aatras Sa Laban. “Delegating of Authority at Base performance report Ang maging style of Leadership Nya. It’s only between an Asset or a Liability ka Nya Sa administration Nya. Kung baga GO or NO GO!