“A President must be deedless in words and wordless in deeds.”
— President Carlos P. Garcia
PRESIDENT Carlos P. Garcia was known as the Balak Beauty in the South—Visayas and Mindanao. Balak in Cebuano means poem. He was master of poetry on stage—not by memory but reciting the poem as he composed it on the spot. He was quiet, simple and unassuming and overwhelmingly nationalistic.
The new President, Rodrigo Duterte, and President Garcia are worlds apart. Duterte is a man of words that he wants his people to obey. He is loud and loves public adulation. Now that he is President, every step of his is being watched, monitored and judged.
The inaugural speech is nothing spectacular
There is nothing in the inaugural speech that is spectacular. It reeks of President Erap’s inaugural promise that there would be no friends and family in the decision-making process and in policy implementation. In the short term of Erap as President, the commitment turned out to be a joke.
So it is with the inaugural speech of President Noy Aquino. It had grand slogans like daang matuwid and walang mahirap kung walang korap. Well, the right path took us to perdition that was the PNoy administration. No corrupt? Well the administration of PNoy brought to the country massive corruption. So what else was new with the PNoy administration? Nothing new except the astounding levels of corruption and continuing pretense to morality and so-called achievement!
Though it was cliché through and through, except for the quotation of Abraham Lincoln, there was a restrained passion for revolutionary changes, which we have yet to see. This is only day three but it is interesting to document the contrasts between words and action.
Man of the people in elitist surroundings
As we mentioned in our previous column, it is wrong for a populist President to be inaugurated before the elite and elitist surroundings. It sends the wrong signals. Duterte should have disregarded his security cordon. He should have had himself inaugurated at the Luneta or at a similar open and public place where the people could come without need of any invitation.
Why inauguration in closed surroundings?—to protect the President from possible assassination? That is a lot of nonsense. It takes someone thoroughly insane to even think of assassinating a just inaugurated President. Besides, it takes a kind of expertise to do that job in the Philippines. It is not available here. Moreover, it takes extraordinary brains and courage to do that and it is not also available here. So the decision of his security people lacks analysis and correct intelligent perception.
Leadership needs risk. Any leader who does not take changes will never amount to anything.
Here is a quote from a text that I received while the proceedings were rolling in Malacañang: “Of the 600 invited guests about 80 percent are “criminals” mostly tradpols/turncoats—plunderers, racketeers—Chinese taipans, Makati big business tax cheats and corrupt media people! How sad!”
I do not know these attendees but knowing the nature of the elite in this country I’m likely to agree with the unidentified texter. How sad—how very sad! The picture in Malacañang was not encouraging because a picture, as they say, tells a thousand words and the thousand words were damnably unpleasant, to say the least.
Treacherous and stormy waters
The Philippines is a troubled and troublous society. The problems appear insoluble. Presidents have come and gone but the problems remain. They attach to the ship of state like age-old barnacles. They appear to be permanent parts of the vessel—graft and corruption, illegal drugs, smuggling, malfeasance in office, bribery, incompetence, ignorance, vote-buying, vote-selling, manipulation of voting results, pretenses and what-have-you. Name the problem and we have got it. As a matter of fact, as a people, we have developed the genius of germinating more problems with every solution.
These are the things that face President Duterte. Let’s see how he copes with them.
On illegal drugs: His solution is to kill them—those drug lords, drug pushers and drug users. His DDS and their imitators in other parts of the country, according to media reports, have succeeded thus far to kill pushers and drug users—no drug lords. Many of the drug lords are known to PDEA and the PNP. Why are no drug lords killed? That is the Hamletian question. Why, oh why, Delilah? Pardon my slip—My question is: Why, oh why, Mr. President? What has Bato De la Rosa got to say? Of course, your term has just begun, that would be his logical answer.
But please, Mr. President, tell your policemen to stop with their killing spree because you are operating within the ambit of the Constitution. There is such a thing as the rule of law, due process, equal protection of the law, and human rights. These are institutionalized in the Constitution. Remember you just took your oath “to preserve and defend the Constitution, execute its laws, and do justice to every man.”
If the killing continues, you will be in trouble with lawyers who are loyal to the
Constitution, the Commission on Human Rights, right-thinking citizens who are schooled in the democratic tradition and the remaining intelligent leaders and members of the Roman Catholic Church. They are still around in good numbers. They could be your formidable opponents. Don’t commit the mistake of underestimating them. That would be your mistake.
Your greatest mistake is to operate within the system and you have to operate within its rules. If you depart from the rules, you will be subject to impeachment. Of course, the move will be defeated by the House since you have the numbers. Be warned, however, impeachment is not just a game of numbers, it is also a fight for the hearts and minds of men.
I should know because I originated, authored and orchestrated the impeachment move against President Ferdinand E. Marcos in the regular Parliament. As I told our Minority Leader Pepito Laurel, the great nationalist, that we would lose the vote and we did but we would win the argument, and we did.
The rest is history, the people drove Marcos out of the country and now you will bury him in the Libingan ng mga Bayani. That is such a quantum leap—from shaming to honoring him. But as you said, that’s destiny. You are riding the crest of the wave of destiny. As I have repeatedly written, ordinary leaders wait for their own season, the great ones create their own season. The ball is in your court. Your anti-drug solution can make or unmake you. So think and think well. The second phase of destiny awaits you.