Mr. Aquino listed billionaires and GDP. Mr. Duterte prefers listing scalawags.
What difference less than two months can make.
In that period, the new leadership has turned almost everything upside down and rewrote the narratives of past six years, including the lists of people, places and events that both dominate the headlines and shape the national debates.
First, the context.
What names were uppermost during the Aquino years? What topics ruled the national discussions? What were the contents of Mr. Aquino’s Book of Lists? Who and what preoccupied the mindset of Mr. Aquino?
Mr. Aquino was focused on the issues of money, wealth and productivity. He spent most of his official time with his economic managers. On the private sector side, he mostly interacted with tycoons and taipans. His state policies enabled the taipans and tycoons to achieve his preferred numbers on national growth and productivity. Under his term, the list of Filipino billionaires not only grew. There was also a massive increase in the billionaires’ wealth. That was his singular achievement.
The archive of the photos during Mr. Aquino’s regime showed him at his elements while meeting and interacting with Ayn Rand’s “creators.” In the jargon of the now, they are called the masters of the universe.
Mr. Aquino definitely basked on inaugurals. New and gleaming office towers owned by his corporate friends, roads and bridges built by the government to enhance the businesses of his corporate friends, power plants, manufacturing facilities – anything that would add to his dream of nice growth charts. Mr. Aquino loved all facilities related to productivity, even recycled ones. Remember this. On the night the SAF 44 arrived in Manila from the killing fields of Mamasapano, Mr. Aquino skipped participating in the sharing of the national grief to attend the inauguration of a rusting car assembly facility that changed ownerships in Laguna.
His favorite themes, the undying ones during his administration, were inanimate things: GDP growth, credit upgrades, official reports on his fiscal prudence.
One of Mr. Aquino’s favorite foreign visitor was Steve Forbes, the policy crackpot who once ran for the Republican presidential nomination with a pledge to impose “flat tax” and balanced budgets. These sorts of ideas are now considered as fringe in the real economic world, just like massive tax cuts for Rand’s “creators.” Forbes’ family is more identified with the Forbes magazine, which it publishes. Forbes is the magazine of “lists” but its main line is tracking the wealth of the global billionaires and publishing a yearly report on the globe’s wealthiest. Forbes’ list of global billionaires now regularly includes Filipinos of Chinese and Basque descent who all thrived under the Aquino years.
In less than two months, President Duterte has done away with the preoccupations of the Aquino government with the rich, the successful and inanimate pursuits such as GDP and credit upgrades. There has been a seismic shift on his priorities as president. The news, mostly driven by the policy priorities of the new President, has shifted from inanimate things to human lives. For Mr. Duterte, the first order of his presidency is to eliminate the worthless, criminal lives to protect the innocent and the terrified lives. I am the only one who has the courage to do this, he said.
Lives that he will kill and lives that he will protect.
Hence, Mr. Duterte’s Book of Lists is not a listing of movers and shakers but of scalawags. Breaking tradition, and doing what no President in our contemporary history ever did, Mr. Duterte recently revealed a long list of judges, congressmen, LGU leaders and police officers who have been allegedly involved in the illegal drug trade, if not enablers or abettors of the drug trade. There were 159 on that list. He will expand the list soon.
List them down. Make their names public. Threaten them with shoot-to-kill if they don’t surrender. At this point during the Aquino presidency, he was plotting his way to achieve a string of GDP hikes via strong free market policies.
The billionaire count, the GDP tracking, under the Aquino watch are history. We now have a body count of drug pushers and protectors, some, obviously, done in via extrajudicial means.
Mr. Duterte has no interest in billionaires. He said he is more interested in running after “oligarchs” who despoil the environment and rig the system by getting rich “while sitting idly in their mansions.” Unlike the propensity of the Aquino presidency, there will be no billionaire worship under the new President.
The full-throated embrace of disruption and unorthodoxy by Mr. Duterte is something unprecedented in our country’s governing history. No previous President has questioned the country’s blind adherence to international accords, no President has laid down a foreign policy not hewed to the policies of the US and Western powers, no President has pursued an all-out, full -concession approach to bringing back the Revolutionary Left into the mainstream.
No President has started his term with a list of scalawags and a rouge gallery. And allowed blood to pour on the streets to allegedly snuff out the mortally flawed lives and protect the terrified ones.