Woke up Monday to President Rodrigo Duterte on TV, looking good, speaking freely, which as we all know by now can go either way.
If you’re easily offended, ready to judge, then this will be nothing but proof of the President’s foul mouth, which is a manifestation of his anger and frustration, be it about the drug business or corruption, oligarchs or America. You will most probably agree when media uses those controversial soundbites as headlines, and you will enjoy the backlash to some extent.
If you’re one to spend your time getting over the bad words, if you’re one to go beyond the macho man rhetoric, what you might hear is a very clear stance about nation, a perspective that cannot be easily pegged down to being Leftist or socialist, but instead seems to be borne of years spent being part of the working class, living away from the center that is Manila, and being mayor without the trappings of elitism.
I’m not saying that none of this might be put into question – the President himself welcomes criticism. But certainly it is more productive to talk about the issues he raises, instead of focusing on how he raises these. Certainly there is joy to be had in seeing the President going up to a centenarian in a wheelchair, and spending the time to listen to what she has to say, giving her a kind pat on the back, a hug and a beso in the end, gestures of kindness we haven’t seen in a President since Erap.
Certainly one cannot fault the glee one feels, faced as we are with a President who does not mince words, and is finally calling America and oligarchs out for their double standard. And yes we might question all this and assert that it is mere image, but so far the President has been so consistent about the no-pretensions, not-taking-shit-from-anyone strategy that it’s hard to prove that this is nothing but a put-on.
The President’s (congress)men
If anything, it’s the President’s people – his men and women – who are failing the Duterte test of honesty and transparency, of actually bringing the change we need, even if at this point, so soon into his presidency, all we might have are words.
Case in point: While the President himself has said that Sen. Leila de Lima will go to jail given all the evidence against her in relation to the illegal drug trade at the New Bilibid Prisons, the President’s men in Congress are pushing to amend Section 13 of Republic Act 3019 that would effectively shield public officials from “preventive suspensions by the Sandiganbayan anti-graft court for alleged offenses committed while holding previous government positions.”
The amendment, being pushed by congressmen led by House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez 3rd, states that “an incumbent public officer facing graft charges shall be suspended ‘provided, that in case such incumbent public officer is no longer connected with the office wherein the offense charged was committed, the preventive suspension order shall no longer be implemented.’” (Inquirer.net, Sept 26)
Which would mean that while President Duterte is certain that the case against Sen. de Lima is strong and that she can be charged; while there is obviously a concerted effort at discrediting her and practically rendering her useless as a senator; the President’s men in Congress are pushing for an amendment that will keep them immune from this kind of process, where a suspension is really a matter of discrediting an official embroiled in graft and corruption charges, and rendering him useless as a public official.
Which means that while the President has said that he stands strongly against corruption, and “pasensyahan na lang” but he will fire anyone who is embroiled in it, his men in Congress are figuring out a way to evade the process that is in place precisely for these erring officials.
The President might be clear about where he stands and what he stands for, but his men in Congress are yet to get with the program.
Against the President
One will not get tired of reminding the President and his people about the state of the arts and culture sector, where none of the changes he has promised are taking effect. If anything, it is being revealed to be worse than the last leadership, because ill-equipped, because without vision, because treating cultural positions as political posts.
Given the President’s strong stand to end “endo,” which one takes to mean the regularization of workers who have served at least six months in any government and private institution – it still makes no sense that 12 workers were allegedly removed from their posts by Liza Diño at the Film Development Council of the Philippines (FDCP). All because of a “change in priorities,” which as yet is undefined.
Given how the President had vowed to keep what is good and what works from the previous administration, Diño has also instituted a travel grants program for FDCP like it is “new.” In fact, it is not. The FDCP has been assisting films and filmmakers in traveling to film festivals through the years, even sponsoring whole contingents in cooperation with other government offices. Cases in point: 2016’s “Hele sa Hiwagang Hapis” for the 66th Berlin International Film Festival, and 2013’s Cannes Film Festival Filipino contingent that included two films in competition, one film for the Director’s Fortnight, and three short films. (FDCP website)
The only difference is that the Diño travel grant program does not care for neither a set of requirements nor credentials in giving out public funds for film contingents. The only difference is that instead of actually creating standards for choosing which films and cultural workers to fund, it will spend public funds on anyone at all, as long as it’s only for two festivals a year, never mind that some people might deserve to travel more than most, and a film might win across more than two festivals at any given time. Never mind film quality or relevance or importance.
And finally, given the President’s strong stand on transparency and freedom of information, it’s been three weeks and counting since the arts and culture development summit meeting that purportedly speaks for all cultural workers. None of the proposals for the different sectors have been released to the public.
Here lies this government’s problem: While the President stands for the change that he promised, his people, the President’s men and women in government, are treating their positions like they’re on daang matuwid. And it is this kind of Liberal Party moves within the current government that does not bode well for nation, or for President Duterte.