Maybe, like me, others are wondering where the sense of urgency in Rodrigo Duterte’s camp is coming from, and why, since the very beginning of the campaign and with no apparent prodding, he has imposed on himself the improbable three-to-six-month deadline to curb crime and rid our society of drug-related problems, when he has six years to do the job. (It’s just too good to be true, says my husband, who likes to compare his promises to a Ponzi scheme, a pyramid scam.)
Why, indeed, would an admitted slow thinker, and rather noticeably so, be in such a rush?
Probably, for my age—I’m close enough to Duterte’s actually—I’m just too senior, bearing too many scars from too many a stumble, to be in a rush.
I find wisdom in cautioning my junior that important things are best done deliberately, slowly, never ever in a rush. Whenever I am myself rushed, I tend to become distracted and vulnerable. That’s exactly what happened to me the two times I was swindled.
To be fair, Duterte has been upfront with us from Day 1. He may not be clear on how exactly he will implement all the wild schemes he puts on the table or in the air, but we could perhaps be consoled somehow that he has made no attempt to package himself into something he’s not.
He, in fact, flaunts his lack of refinement, and at least 39 percent of the people (the plurality vote he got) praise it as authenticity and don’t mind him cussing at every chance and demeaning anyone getting in his way. Indeed, it seems his adorers can’t have enough of his candor.
At first I didn’t believe anyone like him could actually be running for the highest position in the land. He himself had hemmed and hawed until the last day.
But he won convincingly enough—he bested his closest rival, Mar Roxas, by six million votes—and too soon, everyone, like rats jumping ship, was flocking to Davao City, from whose mayoralty he had been sprung, to congratulate him as president presumptive. A number of those well-wishers came away with Cabinet and other government positions.
Thus, the multiparty system began to be merged into one united force, ready to do Duterte’s bidding, as soon as he could be clear about that.
Everything has been happening too fast, and federalism seems the great centerpiece in all the rush, as though the nation’s very life depended on it. Again, ignorant cheers.
Necessarily, federalism needs to be debated in Congress, with the public watching. But do we, the people, still have a voice in Congress, aside from a handful that constitute a decent (a description not necessarily meaning “fair number”) opposition?
Are reforms not possible at all now under the present system, without rewriting the Constitution, itself a dangerous wholesale idea?
“Do you really think a change in the system of government— to federalism or whatever—will have us wake up the next morning in paradise?” my husband would ask his audiences, after himself awakening to their great cluelessness.
To be sure, the revolutionary Gen. Antonio Luna had already recognized the problem early on—we are our worst enemy, and we seem to sabotage our own chances at success by opting for shortcuts.
We need, Luna seemed to say, to first change ourselves in a rebirth of spirit, a reinstallation of moral values.
Such change cannot be legislated; it doesn’t happen overnight—it’s a glacial process in fact. But no one wants to wait that long. And that’s precisely why Duterte won.
Hence, the impatience and the need for shortcuts even from a Nene Pimentel, who is as senior as they come, but has himself caught the rush-rush fever.
When asked why they were in such a hurry to push federalism, he gave himself away. “Easy to convince people now, while the president is still very popular.” Nene must think this president has a short shelf life.
It may be my imagination, but I think President Rody himself knows it’s just a matter of time. He doesn’t even see the point in moving to Malacañang. His press conferences are not scheduled; he just pops up for them at the latest hour. Then he rambles on for two hours, answering questions one way, then taking it back and going another way, which again inspires my husband to predict “he’ll be winging the presidency.”
One broadcast journalist admits that, between the contradictions and the jokes, he is left with hardly any facts to report.
I seem to remember what Duterte once said to journalists who persisted in asking for clarifications: “Sige sulat nang sulat kayo dyan.” Could that have been a challenge to reporters: Go ahead, keep writing, but when you’re done, let’s see you make something out of that!
Have we elected a king, who is used to being feared and worshipped and feels he doesn’t owe anybody anything?
I’m torn between buying boots I can comfortably tremble in or use to hike up the mountains, which the communist NPA will have abandoned for cushy government posts.
But who am I kidding? I’m a senior, neither in any rush nor going anywhere. But there’s something of a déjà vu about all this. I’ll be closely watching, and try not to blink.