• Whither the ‘peace of the living’?


    Marlen V. Ronquillo

    AN average 6.5 percent GDP growth for six years without fail will not makeDU30 a great president. Mr. Aquino, while playacting as president, easily posted a 6.2 percent growth rate. Contrary to what he wanted the public to believe – that he was a serious and hardworking president – I think that Mr. Aquino was a lazy, indifferent president who just laid the environment for social darwinism to thrive, then played slacker through the rest of his term.

    The average growth of 6.2 percent in GDP in the six years he was in power never translated into changed lives for the underclass. Because the income gains from the six years of impressive growth was vacuumed up by capital. And very little, meaning the crumbs, was enjoyed by labor. That was the brutal result of Mr. Aquino’s disdain for leveling the playing field.

    Even if Mr. Duterte manages a 7 percent percent growth rate throughout his six years, that will just add up to the wealth of the super wealthy, with nothing trickling down to the Everyman. As Pope Francis has said, trickle-down is bunk. The same old, same old story.

    Neither will a “tough on crime” persona bring Mr. Duterte to greatness. Those “riding-in-tandem” killers have never cowered before Mr. Duterte’s law enforcers. In fact, they seem to be emboldened by the Duterte law and order agenda.

    The “war on drugs” will not succeed unless the supply of shabu from China is reined in. So far, not a single big-time smuggler has been given the EJK treatment, not a single foreign chemist caught engaged in the processing of shabu has been exterminated with extreme prejudice. With no fear in their hearts, the foreign suppliers of shabu and those running their processing labs here will just keep the supply of shabu thriving.

    Where there is abundant supply from overseas, there will be always local suppliers, mules and runners. The shabu food chain will only cease to exist once the foreign supply lines are cutoff.

    On a very important, but very urban-centric issue such as traffic jams, Mr. Duterte could have scored a major victory had he kept his campaign promise to just “ burn those cars.” So far, perhaps afraid of antagonizing car owners, he has done nothing dramatic to restrict cars from clogged metropolitan roads. The political will of Singapore to restrict cars from its roads has yet to be mustered by Mr. Duterte.

    What has been the result of Mr. Duterte’s timidity? The latest news report said that the Philippines is Asia’s second fastest expanding car market, which means anywhere from 250,000 to 300,000 cars are added into choked-to-death EDSA each year.

    Even the most ambitious urban component of “Build, Build, Build” will not be enough to provide enough road space for the worsening Carmaggedon.

    What policy victory will bring Mr. Duterte to greatness? Talking peace with the Left and the secessionists and doing the concrete work to make them turn their gun barrels into tractor blades, the new version of the biblical “turning swords into plowshares.“

    Stressing on the clamor for peace from the battle-weary underground combatants and their mass organizations, Mr. Duterte stressed this point in his first SONA: “All of them want peace, not the peace of the dead but the peace of the living.”

    Mr. Duterte did not deal with mere rhetoric. The above-ground Left got two cabinet appointments and a slew of sub-cabinet appointments. A government panel led by peace talk veteran Jesus Dureza promptly started peace talks with the Left. Mr. Duterte promised to enact nationalist policies, bring back the glory days of manufacturing and build an independent foreign policy that would lean toward China and Russia on military and economic issues.

    Filipinos who love their country said that stilling the guns of war, if realized by Mr. Duterte, would automatically push him into the ranks of the country’s great presidents, even with miserable failures in other critical areas of governance. Even with a 5 percent GDP growth.

    Imagine the economic bonanza that such peace with the rebel groups would achieve. Just the fact that investments can go into any part of the country without fear of revolutionary taxes would make every part of the country a possible growth area. What about the intellectuals, poets, military strategists, former businessmen and former academics now with the Left who would return to the mainstream? That would be an injection of trained and skilled manpower into the system, at no cost to the government.

    The military will no longer have need for the big expenditures for counter-insurgency and such money could be diverted into health, education and infrastructure.

    It will be a win-win thing and the returns will be awesome.

    So, whither the grand promise of achieving the “peace of the living?”

    It is now buried in some graveyard along with the many other promises of Mr. Duterte. Worse, he has ordered the scrapping of the peace talks. Worst, his government is about to label the Left as a “terrorist organization,” which reminds us of a Marcos formulation and coinage.

    It is back to the old, discredited mailed-fist policy that history has judged as a miserable failure.


    Please follow our commenting guidelines.

    Comments are closed.