MY column last week was inundated with comments personally messaged (PM) to me. There were some impudent statements in Facebook, Viber and Messenger describing this government and the Deegong himself in colorful language not fit for publication in this paper. But this is par for the course, midway to the President’s term, hopefully ending in 2022 — with emphasis on the word hopefully, disputing reckless statements from the DDS/fist pumpers and sycophants agitating for the perpetuation of the Deegong’s regime beyond his legitimate term. I surmise either one of two tracks; the worst would be a coup d’état (RevGov); or, field the daughter to succeed him in 2022, continuing the Duterte brand through the traditional exploitative use of government institutions. This had been shown to work as the 2019 senatorial elections forebode, with the total annihilation of the opposition, resulting in the elevation of the likes of Bong Go and Bato dela Rosa to the Senate.
Both scenarios are unfortunately distracting our minds off our problems and disasters, man-made or otherwise, that is now reaching crisis proportion. Don’t take my word for it. Pick any newspaper for its headlines, listen to the radio, watch TV, surf the internet and social media to get a glimpse of what absorbs the citizenry. One can conclude that we are indeed a polarized country, characterized by factions. One blames government for the continued mis-governance, a weak rule of law, corruption and impunity resulting in hardening poverty, social injustice, human rights violations, and a host of other societal ills. Another blames the traditional politicians in cahoots with their partners among the oligarchy and the elite. Yet we exonerate ourselves for putting these people back to power. And the way our unitary-presidential system works, we then are shunted to the sidelines, precluded from meaningful participation in governance — a key ingredient in a vibrant democracy. So many of us now condemn PRRD and short of advocating for a regime change, hope and pray for a deus ex machina.
But one hope I can see right now with the Filipino, ever cowed and insufferably patient, is a “Paul of Tarsus” conversion of the Deegong himself. I’m proposing some pathway that could be anathema to the growing anti-Duterte hordes — precipitated in part by the Deegong’s own action or inaction resulting in his being “clueless or tanga” (“The Clueless President,” The Manila Times, Sept. 18, 2019)
But first, a digression. The recent headlines enforce the notion of the President’s being clueless about events happening around him from his perch at the palace. The Malacañang communication filtration system is faulty. Consider the Bureau of Correction (BuCor) Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA) fiasco. This had been going on for months with Bato and Faeldon, peaking during the latter’s watch. The Deegong should have already gotten an inkling of the incompetence of Faeldon when he was at the Bureau of Customs. Yet, the Deegong, a ”compadre” (ninong to his son), transfered him to BuCor. And the President was totally in the dark, or so he claims; were it not for the public outrage that ensued because of inclusion in the GCTA of the rapist/murderer and convicted heinous felon, former Calauan, Laguna mayor Antonio Sanchez.
Running circles around DU30
Now comes the expose that the ”high-valued prisoners” at the penitentiary virtually runs the prisons with drugs galore, ”tilapia” brought in by prison guards for the prisoners’ entertainment and sex for pay; and money exchanging hands for hospital stay privileges; not to mention prisoners as assassins for hire. And these happened even during the stint of his protégé, Bato de la Rosa, now an honorable senator incongruously participating in the Senate hearing/investigation of the same anomalies.
In short, he is being played for a fool by his own trusted people — “pinaglalaruan.” This is painful to a President with a humongous ego. The whole Department of Justice and the Malacañang praetorian guard were criminally clueless (tanga) — making the President one, too.
This recounting of the BuCor/GCTA fiasco is simply an illustration of the goings-on in this administration to emphasize the magnitude of the corruption and criminal activities of his own people which is kept from the Deegong’s awareness by his own coterie. And these all add up to the symptoms leading towards the growing perception of the unraveling of the presidency. He is not in control!
Pathway for rectification
For most of us, outsiders looking in, DU30 is alone in the proverbial high seat of the presidency — not constricted by the majesty of the post nor the immensity of the responsibilities, but subjugated by his gigantic flaws. The alpha male possessing a rough and dominating personality with some degree of volatility intimidates people around him and brooks no criticism. What is needed perhaps is a foil to that kind of deviant personality.
A rough model comes to mind in Whipple’s, The Gatekeepers (refer to my columns of Sept. 18, 2019, “The clueless President and Palace cordon sanitaire” and “Part 3, The Gatekeepers…” Oct. 12, 2017). Ronald Reagan, one of America’s successful presidents had a “troika” in place — James Baker 3rd, Edward Meese and Mike Deaver. Adapting this model to the current Malacañang realities could work, retaining the current Executive Secretary/Chief of Staff (COS) Salvador Medialdea as the primus inter pares, considering his years of close intimate personal relationship with the Deegong thus, his preeminence within the coterie. PRRD simply needs to balance the troika with two real professional managers deeply selected from among astute political insiders with extensive experience in the high echelons of government from past administrations — former Cabinet Secretaries or business tycoons — patriotic enough to serve the remaining three years of DU30’s regime.
Such a prototype would also permanently replace Sen. Bong Go who acted as PRRD’s excellent “gofer” (never a COS) for more than a decade, freeing him to do his exalted senatorial duties he was voted for. These three could divide among themselves the enormous task of the office of OP “…supervise formulation of domestic policies, national security council and cabinet meetings while…handling paperwork, speechwriting and [Malacañang] staff; and more importantly control information to and from the president and the execution of policies.” The ‘troika’ is the “dispenser of the president’s time, the most valuable asset in presidential governance.” Collectively, it could stand up to the President while acting as a heat shield, lightning arrester and a safety valve for reining in his impulses.
This could work with one caveat and core to PRRD’s transformation: he must empower these three alter egos to assume the pre-arranged functions. The Deegong needs to understand at this critical juncture that he must leave a legacy behind – always a bane and boon for an outgoing leader. I paraphrase the conclusion in my Oct. 12, 2017 article with what the author Whipple said, quoting another writer: “…maybe that’s the strength of presidents like Ronald Reagan — who don’t think they’re the smartest person around.” The most successful leaders “are those that are secure enough to surround themselves with extremely strong-willed, talented people.”
The troika can help the Deegong run the Palace making him not only a president for all but be truly “presidential.”
For comments: firstname.lastname@example.org