“In politics, there are no permanent friends or enemies, there are only permanent interests.”
–President John Fitzgerald Kennedy
FOR me, there are only three permanent interests – God, country and the people. Family and friends have always taken a backseat in my life. But it’s worth it and I have no regrets. Lost opportunities are occasions for learning and re-examining the relevance of Mayor Rodrigo Duterte in the drift of events in this country.
I have written and spoken a lot of Duterte, on the pages of the Manila Times and in some radio and TV programs as well as in forums, as a possible candidate for president of the Philippines. If he and his associates had read and heard them, they must view me as an enemy. It’s understandable. In the world of Philippine politics irrational partisanship is a given. But I don’t mind. They might as well know that I am a maverick. As a non-traditional participant in the politics of this land, I have a few personal friends. My friends are those on the level of the mind and of the heart in history, politics, literature and music.
My interest in Duterte is nothing personal. I don’t know him, I have not met him. But I want to know him because he appears to be a major factor in the minds of many voluble people maintaining that he is better than the rest of the presidential contenders in the task of moving the country forward. This is a very interesting and engaging point, and it is worth exploring in the national interest.
The man, the charisma
What I know of Duterte is what I read in the papers, see and hear in television and radio programs, in social media and the oral impressions of him of people in all walks of life in this country. To say the least, they numb the intellect and befuddle the perceptive mind of how hopeless the people have become that they would cling to the last straw, come what may. As they say it in colorful Tagalog, “Ang taong nagigipit, sa patalim kumakapit.” (A desperate individual clings even to a blade.) Among the traditional politicians, he appears to be the last straw.
There is no denying that the man has charisma. He attracts persons from all direction – Luzon Visayas and Mindanao. He cuts along all social lines. The people like his swagger, his expletives, and the open desire to eliminate criminals and crooked politicians. He gets applause everywhere. He is attractive to men of all kinds, including those who have identity problems like PNoy, Rene Almendras, Migs Zubiri and Chiz Escudero. He must be attractive to women as he is known to have a lot of women, especially, I presume, those who like the taste of Viagra and Cialis.
But the greatest attraction of Duterte is his constant theme of declaring a revolutionary government the moment he gets elected president as well as his determination to change the unitary system of a government to a federal system; from a presidential to a parliamentary system. The problem with this articulation is that he is trapped by his backward forward movement, giving the impression that he is indecisive in areas where he obviously appears to be unfamiliar. For a leader, that is fatal.
For president or revolutionary leader
According to a knowledgeable source from Davao City, Duterte is definitely running for president in December of this year through the process of substitution, as it is publicly bruited about. This seems perfectly logical, despite his denials. Why should he keep himself in the national public eye, if he is not interested in running for president? Why should he allow his picture to be placed side by side with Senator Alan Peter Cayetano, a registered vice-presidential candidate, in many a tarpaulin banner, especially in Taguig City, the home base of the Cayetanos? Why does he sit with Senator Cayetano in a television advertisement saying that if he were running for president, he would chose Alan Peter as his vice-presidential candidate. Is this not too obvious? I am not a professional mind reader but there is a maxim in law which says, res ipsa loquitor – the thing speaks for itself.
While musing on this possibility of Duterte running for President definitely, I met former Congressman Jess Dureza of Davao City at the new Laguindingan Airport, in Misamis Oriental, which is the entry point to Cagayan de Oro City, Iligan City and the whole Northern Mindanao. It seemed like an accident of Fate, since Jess was waiting for his flight to Davao City while I was on my way back to Manila from Cagayan de Oro City. But in life, no meetings are accidental, all meetings are providential. And this is one of those providential meetings, especially because, as usual, our flights were delayed, because according to Cebu Pacific and PAL announcements, the delays were due to air traffic in Manila.
Since Jess and I have not seen each other for a long time, we had used the opportunity to exchange views on the national situation. Since Jess is a friend of Duterte, I asked him whether Duterte’s decision not to for president is final. He answered me with a Mona Lisa smile. I could understand Jess’ Mona Lisa smile, after all I have been informed that Duterte does not like anyone to make such announcements for him. Beside, this unending speculation on whether he runs or not is good media exposure for him, if he decides to run.
But if I were Duterte, I would not run for President. Why? Running for president is too chancy, if he really wants revolutionary changes in the system and in the lives of our people. The arguments against elections are irrefutable. First, elections are criminal activities for the candidates – buying votes, concealing hidden wealth in their SALN; concealing the real expenses in the election, using guns and goons, buying teachers and Comelec officials, among others; for the teachers and Comelec officials, police and military officers and men, allowing themselves to be bought to manipulate the election and election results. Second, cheating in the elections for the administration will be massive or whoever can buy the Comelec. Third, it is useless to spend much money for the election, if the results are not certain. Fourth, much less money is needed for a constitutional transition government which really means revolution. Fifth, why spend so much time and money for the inevitable to happen.
Why Duterte? It’s simply because he has the money and the apparatus as well as the popular support for now. By delaying the decision to head a revolution, he is wasting precious time and he could be overtaken by events.
What should Duterte do?
But Duterte could not mount a revolution by himself. Alone, without a band of brilliant like-minded souls who have the best intellectual equipment, unquestioned experience, vision, character and disciple, Duterte will be a disaster and embroiled in a quagmire like Vietnam after the death of President Ngo Dinh Diem. That is the slough of despond that must be avoided at all cost.
In plain and simple terms, he must form a council of fifteen of the best and the brightest in the country who could restructure and redefine our institutions, reorient and discipline our people, pursue a vision of the Philippines that equalizes opportunities for all, and develop by itself without dependence upon other countries. He should assign someone like Congressman Jess Dureza to find these fifteen people who could help him in the task of nation building, making the Filipino a king in his own land. They are not difficult to find, if you skin your eyes like Captain Ahab in Moby Dick
If not Duterte, who?
Nothing is ever exclusive in the task of revolutionary leadership in this country. There must be one in every million, therefore about a hundred, as I say it over and over again! In my analysis, I could count of a least two who could do better than Duterte in the task of revolutionary leadership. All you need to do is read between the lines and make the discovery of your life.
As Senator Johnny Ponce Enrile used to ask me every time I met him since we were together in the Parliament, “Oh Bono, how is the revolution going?” My answer now, “Johnny, the revolution is coming and it will hit your treasured institutions like a thief in the night.”