The people pushing Mr. Duterte to run for president say his tough and muscular governance as a big-city mayor is what would propel him to the presidency. His take-no-prisoners predisposition is what excites the electorate. He has made Davao City a peaceful, safe and thriving place and therefore, he can make that happen to the whole country. So goes the pro-Duterte argument.
Given the sense of impunity of criminals in the country (bandits can just overwhelm an island -resort and seize foreigners in high-profile kidnappings), that is probably one of the major planks in a presidential quest. But it should be just one of the many and it should not be the most emphasized point. No one has been elected president of the country on a law-and-order platform, not even Mr. Ramos. The former constabulary chief and armed forces chief of staff had to reinvent himself as a new-age technocrat before getting elected as president with the slimmest margin in modern presidential elections.
Vowing to be tough on criminals will not get Mr. Duterte elected president. So if Mr. Duterte changes his mind and runs for president, he should recast his platform, which is enough for Davao City coffee shop banter but not substantial enough and compelling enough for a presidential run. The Davao-centric success will fall short in an archipelagic campaign.
The other claimed strength of Mr. Duterte – that he will change the culture and the ways of Imperial Manila – is another superficial, hollow argument for running. It will fall flat once subjected to real scrutiny and a rigorous intellectual test.
Giant metropolises, Mr. Duterte’s backers should realize, are really the creation of economic imperatives and they are not by-products of anti-rural and pro-urban diktat of the state. Look at the Davao City of Mr. Duterte. It has grown in increments but at a sustained rate. In the process, it is now host to most of the important educational, economic and cultural forces in that part of Mindanao, including hosting the best tertiary hospitals in the region. No even the combined value of all economic activities in three smaller cities near Davao City can match the economic power of the latter.
So we have an “Imperial Davao” towering over smaller cities and urban areas near it. Just like an “Imperial Manila” that is both a seat of political power and an economic colossus. You cannot artificially balkanize Metro Manila and alter its outsized growth and influence without disrupting the normal functioning of the economy and society.
Across the globe, it is the growth of the traditional big cities at a sustained pace that is accepted as a universal, inexorable development. Even in the US, the “Sun Belt” and “Rust Belt” theory of development of theorist Richard Florida, which was in vogue few years back, has been questioned.
So what should be the compelling agenda in his platform? I am just a typist with limited talent, a zero in that area. He has to get the best economic and political minds to do that. He has to acknowledge, however, that he has to grow intellectually if he wants to run for president.
Oh wait. What about economic injustice?
That depressing findings of a prominent economist, that the top 1 percent sucks up 60 % of GDP, is more depressing than a Yolanda or an Ondoy or a case of genocide in a remote area, given the fact that a vastly unequal society is the worst society human beings can be in. For an official like Mr. Duterte who, according to his supporters, wants the law to be applied to all without fear or favor, there is something patently illegal – criminal rather — about a society that allows the Top 1 percent to gobble up most of the gains while crippling the mobility of those in the 99 percentile and below.
Worst among all the public crimes, what is Mr. Duterte’s take on economic injustice and the stranglehold of the elite over the sweat and toil of a nation. No law-and-order agenda can be more pressing than solving the great divide that cripples mobility and meritocracy, frustrates the rise of a sizable middle class that would help good leaders govern well and serves as society ‘s conscience.
Mr. Duterte should venture into that policy field if he really wants to lead the nation and govern well.
While I am wary of Mr. Duterte’s presidential run and will probably not vote for him, his candidacy will surely bring a gust of fresh air and unorthodox perspectives into the 2016 contest. It should be welcomed. In a sense, his run will be a historic one. No LGU leader has ever attempted to run for president and the most promising one died with the untimely death of Manila Mayor Arsenio H. Lacson.
His candidacy cannot be dismissed as a fool’s errand. He places 4th in the latest survey, just three points behind the anointed, Mr. Roxas. With a “ bump” expected from his formal intention to run. Mr. Duterte can overtake Mr. Roxas easily and compete with Ms. Poe and Mr. Binay.
Should he reconsider his decision to quit and sign-on anew, Mr. Duterte, talking without scripts and improvising along the way, will easily be the most exciting candidate in the campaign. Mr. Binay has been rendered too cautious by the clear media bias against him. Ms. Poe sounds like Mr. Aquino, rigid and too focused on “ integrity.” Mr. Roxas, except for his supreme belief in “daang matuwid” is actually a tabula rasa to ordinary Filipinos.
The last outspoken candidate in contemporary presidential campaigns was Miriam Defensor Santiago and many believed that had it not been for votes from Pangasinan, Pampanga, Cebu and two more provinces, she would have been the winner in 1992.