THE top supporters and close associates of Mr. Duterte are justified when they boast and gloat on how the Duterte presidency will be different from the rest. Fully understandable, too, as the hangover from the big win is still there, a sense of triumphalism over a victory that was truly unprecedented. Years ago, we were all wondering on whether a run by a big-province governor or a big-city mayor was possible. Mr. Duterte did not only make that run possible but elevated it into the political stratosphere when he won that seemingly improbable run convincingly.
The confidence and euphoria is such that Mr. Duterte’s Cabinet has representatives from the political Left. Who else but The Digong can do such an offering. The truth is The Digong would be an instant nominee for “the country’s best President ever” should he succeed in convincing the Left to be a mainstream political party, minus its underground army. The route to political power, indeed, is not a Maoist insurgency but via parliamentary struggles.
Who else but The Digong can slam the media (some of what he said is sadly true) and be unapologetic about it?
Right now, however, the cronies and friends of The Digong must tone that sense of euphoria down. It’s about time they reined in that enthusiasm.
An overextended form of triumphalism that includes broadcasting all the priorities of the new administration and second-guessing him on how he would serve as President carries dangers on its own. It will erode the public excitement and anticipation over the coming into power of an unorthodox President. By the time Mr. Duterte assumes power, his aides and cronies would have said it all. And what would come from Mr. Duterte at the day of his assumption would be, sadly, rehashed views. This will not serve Mr. Duterte well.
If his aides continue doing precisely that—prematurely announce and lay bare all his plans—the headline on his first day would be “ Duterte confirms aides’ statements.” Instead of “ Duterte bares radical plans to move the country forward.”
The associates and cronies should also cease pushing Mr. Duterte into a decision of not including Ms. Robredo, the proclaimed VP, into his official family. Ms. Robredo should be in the government as an active executive official, not a spare tire which, in John Nance Garner’s words, “is worth a pitcher of warm spit.” On this issue, a specific executive office for Ms. Robredo carries a thousand pros for The Digong and almost zero cons.
Ms. Robredo and Mr. Duterte agree 100 percent on who shall get the most attention from government. Mr. Duterte speaks of “the poor” and the unprotected. Ms. Robredo phrases it differently—‘yung nasa laylayan (those on life’s margins). They are referring to the same sectors, my neighbors, myself, the kind of people referred to in The Sermon on the Mount.
And they both see that there is a need for the heavy lifting from the state to accomplish that, not the hypocritical talk of “inclusive growth” from the Aquino-Roxas Bros. A solid consensus on the thrusts of fundamental policies is probably the most ideal term of engagement between the President and his cabinet. Mr. Duterte and Ms. Robredo share that consensus.
The other reason is this. Ms. Robredo is as unorthodox as Mr. Duterte and they are not dissimilar. Their feet are firmly planted on the ground.
My Camarines Sur colleague in the small farming movement often showed me photos of his bus rides to Manila with Ms. Robredo and her kids as co-passengers. And that was long before there were social media posts on Ms. Robredo’s bus rides. That Rep. Robredo did ride buses consistently for three years—on that long, torturous trip to Bicol via the dangerous “Bitukang Manok” and did so without fanfare—speaks volume on the authenticity of her character. No power and ego trips. And regular immersion with the ordinary Joes.
Coming from a province where small-time politicians dream of tooling around in the current generation Land Cruiser (many barangay captains have a late-model LC Prado and third-generation Prado in their garages), I am awed by Ms. Robredo’s agnosticism toward fancy cars and late-model SUVs and her preference for mass transport. In his moment of candor during the campaign, Mr. Duterte had expressed the same agnosticism. Asked on how he plans to tackle the traffic jams in the metropolis, Mr. Duterte said, “I will burn all those cars.” Meaning, cars meant nothing to him and that cars—not buses—were at the root cause of the metropolitan traffic jams. The Aquino-Roxas Bros did everything to disincentivize mass transport and keep buses out of Metro Manila roads.
The preference for private cars and the bias against buses and other forms of mass transport will hopefully see its end under the Duterte administration.
Of course, Ms. Robredo has flaws. Her outburst of self-righteousness, the tortured language she uses to express the self-righteousness (never akong nandaya, never akong ganito) are uncalled for and superfluous. But you can sense that her heart is in the right place and she is truly concerned, deeply concerned rather, of marginal and impoverished lives.
For Mr. Duterte, the appointment of Ms. Robredo into some executive office carries a thousand pros and almost zero cons.