Oslo provides an ideal environment for discussing peace, even one as long-drawn and bloody as the leftist insurgency in our country. It has a track record of encouraging all sorts of belligerent movements to talk peace with their respective governments. It has devoted resources to that effort. It has a political culture, that despite the changes in the leadership, never waivers from its commitment to host peace negotiations. A few days back, the impossible happened in Oslo. The government panel handpicked by Mr. Duterte and the NDF panel agreed on common drafts, which would form the basis for writing the final peace deal.
What were signed were called “ common drafts for the framework of the substantive agenda on socioeconomic, political and constitutional reforms.” Next move? They will hammer out a final peace deal that will cover everything, from the broad reforms to the details on amnesty, release of political prisoners and the like. Finally, Mr. Duterte is succeeding where all previous governments have failed.
The single-minded pursuit of peace with the Left by Mr. Dutrete is enough to make him a president of real consequence. He has announced similar approaches to bring back the MNLF and the MILF into the fold so that his government can push through with his all-out war against the Islamist jihadists.
What vests extraordinary gravitas to the peace-seeking of Mr. Duterte is this. The Left is not a spent force. The fact that it opened up several more guerilla fronts under the government of Mr. Aquino dramatizes the singular appeal of the Left and the intensity of its recruitment efforts. The recruitment may have slackened in the areas within the media loop – the campuses of Metro Manila and the traditional hotbed of insurgency – Central Luzon.
But in the hellscapes of poverty in the Visayas and Mindanao, and the Sierra Made communities in East Luzon, the Left has active armies. In some remotest areas, it is the only functioning government.
I hate this word but I will use it. The mainstreaming of the Left will result in an economic surge, what with a battle-hardened workforce that will be injected into the thick of things. Returnees can be anything and everything – from university professors to poets and for those who still want lives in the mountains, dedicated forest guards. Gun-toting forest guards or guardians of protected areas are a must to stop the plunder of our patrimony and former guerillas who want to stay in the mountains can be tapped for that tough job that very few forestry graduates want.
The end of revolutionary taxation will increase the flow of revenue into the government. More businesses and enterprises will be encouraged to set up shop in the former NPA-held areas. The overused phrase – peace dividends – will become a reality.
Mr. Duterte’s commitment to family planning and birth control is a fresh gust of policy wind, which no other president would undertake. The popularization of birth control tools will cut down birth rate dramatically. The passage of a two-child policy, which the Duterte administration apparently favors, will be another plus.
We can’t be a small country that is tops in population surge. We can’t afford a 2.2 percent yearly growth in population, even with our standing as a prodigious producer of OFWs. With a food production growth of one percent or so a year, it is expected to have as many as 10 million malnourished kids and as many as 10 million suffering from involuntary hunger on a regular basis. On birth control, Mr. Duterte has the right to shaft the bishops and say “go to hell” because it is the right thing to do.
These two alone, once put into reality by Mr. Duterte, are enough to make him a president of real consequence. Ok, I forgot the general relief of those getting drivers’ licenses – it is one or two hours max today – and those registering their vehicles. Unfortunately, that is not yet the case with the PUVs.
Tender mercies, yes, but all-too important to the common man.
Extrajudicial killings, Mr. Duterte’s most abject and unconscionable failure, do not top his horrific lows because these will soon be ridiculed in SNL skits, which would be remembered forever. Or, because these get negative comments from Mr. Obama, the UN and the EU. They get a rating of horrific low because these are a violation of the Ten Commandments and they are a violation of our enshrined Bill of Rights. From our religious to our temporal tenets, killing is a no-no and Mr. Duterte’s administration not only unleashed killings by the dozens but by the thousands.
He even threatened a genocide-scale extermination of drug pushers and addicts. Mr. Duterte often acts like a dictator of a tin-pot country than a democratically-elected president.
The shaming of Senator de Lima by Mr. Duterte himself and his merry band of enablers is not done in a civilized society, Mr. Trump’s similar acts notwithstanding. Why not let the courts decide on Senator de Lima’s guilt or innocence, which is the better way?
The foreign policy pivot would have been an admirable act were it patterned after Mr. Nehru and his policy to reach out to every country and not be part of the entanglement of the then bipolar arrangement. That worked well for India and Mr. Nehru as it allowed his country to focus on the tensions with his neighbor – Pakistan. That allowed him to explore what really immensely benefited India in the future – such as building those four impressive technology campuses that soon made India a global ICT power. And placed those genius Indians as CEOs of Microsoft and Google.
But what Mr. Duterte is doing is pivoting away from traditional allies with long and cherished traditions of liberal democracy into the waiting arms of Putin and the Chinese princelings.
From a pragmatic point, from all economic benchmarks, that pivot will be a losing proposition.
Yes, we should not go gentle into that good night. We should explore other foreign policy options. But neither should we jump from the frying pan into the fire.