A memo for President Duterte



An anxious reader has asked me to be “a little more helpful” to President Duterte by writing him a private memo on governance and foreign policy. It’s all I have lately been writing about; but the writer wants me to do something exclusively for the President. A most unusual request.

The writer fears that the President, whom he obviously deeply admires and strongly supports, is ranting too much against the United States without any just or acceptable cause, and that, as Manila Mayor and former President Joseph Ejercito Estrada recently warned, he may be in danger of being removed, like Ferdinand Marcos in 1986, and Estrada himself in 2001. Would I not do my share to save PDU30 from this fate?

A growing number of observers seem to share this fear, but obviously not PDU30 himself. In fact, he has challenged the CIA to oust him, but the US has declared there is absolutely no basis for such talk. The US hunts down international terrorists and criminals around the globe, but not small-town despots who kill barefoot drug suspects, who rail against God, the Pope, the US president, the UN Scretary, the European Union and various church prelates in a language that is completely alien to, and the exact opposite of, civilized speech.

A little mad maybe, but no Osama bin Laden

Some people have begun to suspect that DU30 is afflicted with the same incurable disease that afflicted Napoleon, Josef Stalin, Adolf Hitler, and other megalomaniacs whom the world had no difficulty calling “mad.” But nobody has been brave enough to suggest that DU30 is another Osama bin Laden, Maomar Qaddafi, or Saddam Hussein who should be terminated with extreme prejudice. Serious analysts, including former Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, the country’s longest serving defense secretary, who was asked this question in a press forum on Wednesday, see no reason to fear that DU30 would end up like any of these despots.
Who would replace him is the more serious question; it raises the graver danger to the country and to everybody else.

No need for memos

My anxious reader seems to believe I have something to say to DU30, which I have not said on this page before. That is an illusion. I believe I have said everything I needed to say on the subject, and writing a private memo–even assuming he would read it–is simply out of the question.

I used to write memos to President Marcos when I was in the Cabinet (1969-80), and I wrote at least one unforgettable memo to Estrada before he fell in 2001. It was part of my job as Marcos’ information minister and spokesman, and I got away with my audacity only because although Marcos never suffered fools gladly, he also never rejected any idea, no matter how foolish, before he had heard it. But I resigned from the Cabinet six years before he fell.

In the case of Estrada, I wrote to suggest the creation of a crisis committee, which should have been created months ago, in the face of the gathering storm threatening his removal. I was the Senate Majority Leader, and not a member of the Estrada government, but as a close personal friend I was appalled by the fact that while Erap’s enemies were actively moving fast to oust him, his Cabinet and other supporters just sat inside the Palace, looking at the ceiling or at one another, saying or doing nothing.

Where DU30 has succeeded

The situation under DU30 is nowhere like that under Marcos or Estrada, at the height of their respective crises. There are no visible forces moving to oust him. He continues to curse the US and talk of expelling the US forces from the country, in response to the US criticism of his drug killings. His popular support as President has obviously been eroded, particularly among the thinking classes in Luzon, the Visayas and even in Mindanao.
But because he has coopted all the propaganda fraudsters in the country, all we hear is the myth created by the bogus and hare-brained surveys proclaiming his alleged popularity.

The absence of a political opposition, the continued weakening of the various institutions, and the persistent intervention of a fraudulent media feeding the nation with sensational headlines have allowed DU30 to dominate the daily conversation. He has reduced the national narrative into one running police story—-that of drug killings—-where the State has become the instrument of death and nothing else.

This created unprecedented problems for our civil liberties. When the US, the UN, the European Union and the international organizations began to show an active interest in the killings, DU30 went ballistic, and our foreign policy became an active mine field. This exposed DU30 to his first real test as the leader of a democratic and republican state.

Where he has failed

And, as former President Fidel V. Ramos put it in a similar context, he has failed the initial test. The first test is one of character: he has revealed himself as a man unprepared to listen to any opinion or idea that was not his own, especially if it offered a different set of facts or analysis of the facts. He seems to believe the presidency has clothed him with revealed knowledge of everything, and he does not have to turn to anyone for anything. But he sees the big wide world through the lens of the mayor of Davao, talking to no one but the people of Davao.

He could not stand dissent or criticism. He is not the first president to behave in this manner, but he seems to be the most intolerant. Cory Aquino, who may have spent more time playing mahjong with her friends than studying state papers, famously said, “I hate unsolicited advice.” In the case of DU30 he has succeeded in so terrifying everybody else that no one would dare offer him any unsolicited advice. In Cabinet meetings, he is reported to be the only one who talks.

In the case of Erap Estrada, he cut off his household staff, who tried to meddle in serious state matters, with the curt remark, “Mag presidente muna kayo.”–(Get yourselves elected President, first.) But he proved pliant to the advice of his Cabinet members on matters falling under their special competence. DU30 does not have to remind anyone of who he is and who they are–he is not just the State, he is above it.

This is such a great disorder that my anxious reader does not believe it could last. It is bound to crumble, and DU30 with it. This is the reason he wants even an inconsequential public advocate like this writer to write the President a private memo to help. There is no need to write the President a memo, everything has already been said. But I will repeat it.

A recapitulation

Just be true to yourself. Despite the fact that you are the President, you have nothing which you have not received. Do not be mesmerized by the power you have decided to arrogate unto yourself. Like the least of your people, without God and your people, you are nothing. You have made too many enemies from Day One as President, and you have become your worst enemy as of now. Try to make some friends. You were given the presidency to make friends for your country and for yourself. Don’t waste it. Don’t make enemies of your friends.

Like China, America should be your friend. Despite everything you have said about Americans, try to take a position that is equidistant to the United States as the dominant world power, and China as the emerging regional power. This is what some of your more level-headed friends are hoping you would do. Myself included.
Our government could then still be an instrument of peace and cooperation rather than conflict or confrontation; it could help stabilize the geopolitical order.

There are those who believe that for big-power rivalry and maritime disputes in the South China/West Philippine Sea to end, China and all the states washed by that great sea should perhaps waive their individual territorial and sovereignty claims and put them together in the service of all mankind. It sounds utopian, it’s like a dream. But we should all dream, until we run out of dreams. Why don’t you join that dream?



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  1. @ Christianne Monteiro

    Bashing and bullying will never serve our country… not more than kissing China’s ass.

  2. same trick employed by Pdd during the election; Good and bad publicity, is still a publicity and won him the presidency. We now exist in the world map. We even got commitments with china and japan because of that. Just saying!

  3. Vagoneto Rieles on

    Ousted President Estrada wasn’t helped by cabinet members who simply stared at the ceiling or at each other during their meetings. I can’t see how this President will be helped by a cabinet that finds the floor or their shoes more interesting than ‘Duterte-rants’ in their own meetings. Whether President Duterte will be ousted himself; or, whether such an event favours the country is anybody’s guess. What is certain, however, is that President Duterte, (as was ‘ousted’ President Estrada), will only have himself to blame for that singularly odious eventuality.

  4. I agree with you Christian Montiero. It is not about how tactful and finesse our president is but it is how he do things. I saw the changes in NAIA, the no contact policy for traffic rules violators, the one stop shop that is being implemented for all government offices with time constraints and many more. Not to mention how he handled China and improved our relations with our neighbors. Our president is doing his job by heart and I feel his love for our country. This is only for the few months as being the president. And take note, there is no budget for any of his endeavors aside from MOOE coz the budget was already fixed by the previous administration. For me, he is honest enough to say what He has in his heart and he walk the talk.

  5. This President does things for a reason . Ousted by US/LP , I doubt it – he has the people behind him.

  6. really mr kit?? cia does not depose sitting rulers?? am sure you are a friend of erap since you defended him in the senate when he was undergoing impeachment proceedings. hindi ba niyari ng spy agency si erap at si makoy sr?? hindi pati si arroyo ay dinale rin?? remember when arroyo was an apple of their eyes?? she fell from good graces of the kano when she withdrew our meager contingent in iraq to get back one pinoy driver held by rebels.

  7. DU30’s old perception of America, UN, and the Pope still hang over his head and he does not have a new perception of the whole world or the changes made after a decade since 1946. He is just like a Japanese who went
    on hiding after the war and does not know that the war is over and should not kill anymore.

  8. You love that terrorist? Come on. He’s mouthfull of toxic, that man, i hope will be taken out the sooner the better and forcefully. He’s like day and night. He should go back to where he came from. What an idiot. He has personal vendetta against the Americans because he wasn’t allowed to come here to the U.S. to marry his girlfriend? That’s it? Wow, Could be by looking at him they thpught he was some alien.

  9. Maribel Calanda on

    I hope the President uses his heart to mend his ways. His heart is in the right place as far as governance is concern. He wants to continue good practice or policy implemented in the past by acknowledging the person who owns the idea. He is an admirer of President Marcos and I love him more for that. He will succeed. He just have to be more. careful with his speech. Marcos opposed America too in their other policies but did not use gutter language to prove his point. Marcos is smart enough to know that he has to play politics with America. PDigong is too black and white with his emotions. While I agree that he continues his tirades against De Lima , who is suffering from paranoia now and who continues to have a dense face, I do not agree that he continues his tirades against Obama coz the guy has not said anything bad about him anymore. I wish he would keep his peace.

  10. Let him be himself, after all how do you change a 71 year old man? As for being taken out by the Americans, no risk, no gain, right? He may be uncouth, but he is fearless and his heart is in the right place. To pray for Duterte is to pray for the people.

    • Wrong analogy “To pray for Duterte is to pray for the people”. Duterte is either a leader intoxicated by his popularity and power or a person who is crazy or a psychopath. Your choice?

  11. Thank you Sir for this article| it really is helpful in politely asking PH Digong for some changes in his ways.

    I guess we here at PH have been cursed by the Heavens for the sins of many| through sufferings on PH Duterte’ s Government. Really, in my little place in Manila| almost all of my neighbors are evil and they are seen by the Government Officials, if any of them are not, yet even in the naked eye: these evils are being tolerated.

    I understand Digong’ s anger over US but we definitely cannot cut ties withe Americas| our language alone is purely dependent on English.

    In my thinking| I must be living in Hell right now seeing evils from left to right :P And in my simple view| could Duterte be their Leader?

    I guess, I just have to wait for the coming of Jesus Christ to see Heaven :)

    Happy Weekend Sir.

  12. Mr. Tatad let me quote a portion of your piece which I find absurd, “Some people have begun to suspect that DU30 is afflicted with the same incurable disease that afflicted Napoleon, Josef Stalin, Adolf Hitler, and other megalomaniacs whom the world had no difficulty calling “mad.” But nobody has been brave enough to suggest that DU30 is another Osama bin Laden, Maomar Qaddafi, or Saddam Hussein who should be terminated with extreme prejudice.” REALLY? I think you should go back and learn your history about the reputation of this European leaders you have mentioned as compared to the recently executed arab leaders. NAPOLEON, STALIN, AND HITLER caused the murder if not the execution of a lot of people and stirred many nations in Europe nation, BINLADEN, GADAFI AND HUSSIEN on the other hand did not go to war nor caused mass deaths, infact their countries flourished during their time, after executing them look at now what is happening to IRAQ, LIBYA and other arab countries invaded by America and its Allies, does it look like Paris Or London or the haven depicted by Americans in their fight for freedom or democracy? Its war torn. Be responsible in making and comparing people or remarks to extremely terminate great leaders, as matter of fact, their termination or the invasion of their country has legal issues.

    • Dude are you sure? Bin Laden was a terrorist, the head of Al Queda! Not a country dude! Godafi, although head of Libya was also terrorist. Get your facts strait!

    • Wow! Please do a lot of research first before commenting about Bin Laden, Gaddafi and Hussein as you are insulting the thousands of Kurds who were gassed to the death, the hundreds of high school and university students raped and murdered by Gaddafi and the more than 2,000 who perished in Sept 11.

    • @ yamon..who built up kadafy , hussien and bjn laden to power until they outlived their usefulness? maybe the best comparison, he is following the footstep of fidel castro by priking a small needle to america as .a chinese torture.

    • Are you kidding? Bin Laden did not go to war? What about New York city WTC? Hussein did not invade Kuwait? Gadafi never fomented plane crashes and plan with terrorists? Send your Blackhawk to do his homework and learn some more basic history, man!

  13. Mr Tatad, I have been reading your column almost everyday, some I agree and some I disagree but this above column is the best you have written. You have seen who Duterte is . You have described him like he is your brother. Your short memo is what President Ramos is saying. I firmly believe that nobody can teach an old dog new trick. It is too late. Duterte does not listen. He is a one man wreaking machine. I am 100 percent positive that he will be taken out. He is not like Marcos who is a genius, not like Estrada that knows how to get along with and make friends. Duterte is a unique person. Nobody is like him. You cannot compare him with anybody.

    • You have a flaw in your comment, ” He is not like Marcos who is a genius, not like Estrada that knows how to get along with and make friends”. Those are good traits and yet they fell to conspiracies to remove them from office.

    • Christianne Monteiro on

      I’ve just started reading Manila Times of lately. I love this article. And I am one of those people who believe in him, in what he can do for this country, his love for the people and the country. He is not perfect, but who is? I know his flaws and my eyes are open on those points, but he is by far the best President I’ve ever had in my entire life. I lost my trust on the law enforcers but he brought me that trust again. And I stand with the millions of people who supports the President. And this I know, if someone will bring him down, I will be there to pull him up – simply because I love our President.