Columns / Opinion

A dose of the Liberal Party’s own medicine

Duterte in, Aquino out.  What now?

John Gabriel Pabico-Lalu  |  Editor-in-Chief
PRESIDENT RODRIGO ROA DUTERTE IS CORRECT: it has been just a little over a hundred days, but it feels like it has been more than a year since he took office as the president of the Republic of the Philippines.  This is in the sense of what has transpired, how it happened, and why it even happened.
There is nothing dull to expect from a person with a colorful personality like Duterte.  He is different from all the country’s past presidents.  Well, one might compare Duterte to Former President Joseph Estrada, who also used to be a local executive, and who also gave the United States a cold shoulder.  Both belong to the masa (masses), hold a massive appeal, possess a short temper, and have a penchant for beautiful women.
But still, Duterte is not Estrada.  Duterte literally speaks his mind, often times to a fault.  One major criticism that both presidents had was that the successes in their respective cities do not indicate management skills.  People say that what worked for Duterte in Davao City — such as a complete disregard for formalities and an outright support for shoot-to-kill orders — might not work nationally, more so globally.
There may be some truth to such claims, especially when he likened himself to Nazi Germany’s Adolf Hitler, by saying that he would “willingly slaughter criminals as Hitler did with the Jews” during the Holocaust.
Of course the Jews were offended.  While Malacañang’s damage control team, also known as press offices, will say that he was taken out of context, the particular comparison and the statements were still uncalled for.  This is not a case of “media biases” or “misinterpretations”.
But in fairness to the current president, he does not see the world in a flowery, poetic sense, unlike all the pretentious heads of state who speak kindly yet act roughly.  Plus, there are instances where the media really, gravely, misinterprets what the president says.  For Duterte, what you see is what you should get.  It is a world where people who look good standing on the podium also curse.
This is the status quo, and there are several years before the country elects another president.  This is not to say that the country has a bad president in Duterte; rather, it is a call to the Liberal Party.
If you do not want an individual like Duterte, just do your job right.
The social networking sites have been a warzone lately, between the die-hard Duterte supporters, the critical netizens, and the opposition supportive of the previous Aquino administration.  Media credibility has waned down, with sides claiming that a particular media outlet favors one party.
Liberal Party (LP) chairman President Benigno S. Aquino III raises the hands of the administration senate slate for the 2016 national elections during the Koalisyon ng Daang Matuwid: Ang Pagpapakilala at the Sala B of the Balay Expo Centro Building in EDSA corner McArthur Avenue, Araneta Center, Cubao, Quezon City on Monday (October 12, 2015). The 12 senatorial bets includes COOP NATCCO party-list Representative Cresente Paez; Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) director and former Akbayan party-list Representative Ana Theresia “Risa” Hontiveros-Baraquel; former Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) Director General Emmanuel “Joel” Villanueva; former Energy Secretary Jericho Petilla; Senator Ralph Recto; Senate President Franklin Drilon; former Senator and former food security czar Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan; former Justice Secretary Leila de Lima; Interior and Local Government Assistant Secretary for Muslim Affairs and Special Concerns Nariman Ambolodto; Senator Teofisto “TG” Guingona III; and Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (TIEZA) general manger and chief operating officer Mark Lapid. Also in photo are LP Presidential Candidate former DILG Secretary Manuel “Mar” Roxas II; and LP Vice Presidential Candidate Camarines Sur 3rd District Representative Maria Leonor “Leni” Robredo. (Photo by Joseph Vidal / Malacañang Photo Bureau)

SEA OF YELLOW  |  The Liberal Party’s senatorial slate in the last May 2016 National Elections, with former president Noynoy Aquino, and LP standard-bearers Mar Roxas and Leni Robredo, who is now the vice-president of the Philippines. (Photo from Rappler)

If the pro-Duterte camp have the statements “bayaran” (paid for), “dilawan” or “yellowtard” (a supporter of Aquino, whose LP uses the yellow color), and “bias”, then the pro-Aquino factions have lengthy posts or essays that pounce on the masa’s lack of education.
While these events do not conclude that people who support Duterte are automatically from the masses and those standing up for LP are the elites, it still signifies something.  It shows an epic-scale struggle between the masa and the nacion (upper classes).  If University of the Philippines professor Zeus Salazar’s theory of Philippine societal divisions is to be believed, this is a class war that has been going on since the days of masa’s Andres Bonifacio and nacion’s Jose Rizal.
Duterte is the president because the nacion failed to improve the masa’s state of living — something that the middle classes also took offense of.  The sentiments of his 16 million voters arose from the Aquino administration’s futile effort to promote inclusive growth.  The Philippines’ gross domestic product (GDP) has increased steadily year-on-year during the Aquino administration, but a lot of Filipinos remain poor.
The above mentioned fact does not even include all the blunders that the Aquino administration has committed.  From the alleged misuse of government funds through the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), up to the failure of the state to pursue corrupt politicians from the LP, it all stuck in the people’s minds.
Then you have the national government’s unpreparedness for super typhoon Haiyan, the lack of auditing on the funds for rehabilitation projects, the killings of farmers from Cotabato and of the members of the Lumad tribe, and an operation that had 44 members of the Philippine National Police’ Special Action Force (PNP-SAF) killed-in-action.
The list goes on.  It is not a wonder why it has been so convenient and refreshing for Aquino’s supporters to sit in front of their computers or swipe through their smartphones, and point fingers at the Duterte administration.  They might have been so tired of defending Aquino to death — the same reason why they laugh at Mocha Uson now — for the last six years.
Again, this is not in defense of Uson or the current president.  For Duterte, there is a lot of room for improvement, and still a lot of time to do so.
Now, if people who are complaining about Duterte’s brand of leadership have someone to blame, it should be LP, first and foremost.  If only Mar Roxas swallowed his ego and allowed Grace Poe to be their standard bearer, things might have been different.  Things could have gone their way.  But for all its arrogance, LP even called on Grace Poe to give way when they saw that a Duterte win was inevitable.
It is a fitting strike of karma for LP, after the demolition job they did to former vice president Jejomar Binay, himself a populist presidential candidate.  While Binay has yet to prove his innocence, they subjected him to a trial of publicity, prompting the public to judge him even before the court has.
So if there is a lesson in all of these, it is to never trust LP with handling the nation again.

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