POSTSCRIPT / December 6, 2015 / Sunday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Opinion Columnist

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Duterte to voters: Take it or leave it

DAVAO Mayor Rodrigo Duterte gives the impression he can just walk away from his presidential candidacy without feeling any sense of loss if he, like Sen. Grace Poe Llamanzares, is disqualified from running for the top executive post in May 2016.

Such nonchalant “take it or leave it” air must be the envy of other candidates who appear willing to give their right arm just to have a shot at the presidency and the contributions that go with the campaign.

The 70-year-old Duterte has captured the imagination of his countrymen who are ready to install him as the answer to the runaway criminality and big-time corruption bedeviling the country.

In street lingo spiced with profanities, Duterte offers a short and simple answer — “I’ll kill you!” — to drug lords and other hooligans operating like they own the neighborhood. He vows a similarly merciless approach to corruption in government.

“If elected president, my priority is to stop criminality and corruption,” he warned crooks in high and low places.

He is living proof that he could and would do it. Exhibit A is his crime-free city of Davao, which he has governed for 22 years as mayor.

The acid test he has given himself and his police is if their wives and darling daughters can walk alone in the streets from early evening till the wee hours without being molested.

• Is Duterte for real? He is!

THOUSANDS must have seen in the Internet the sorry sight of a man made by Duterte to chew and swallow the fake property documents he had used to swindle innocent victims. There was also the case of a pedestrian made to swallow the cigarette butt he had thrown away.

By his own account he has terminated a number of criminals who refused to heed his warning for them to move out of Davao if they want to stay alive.

He admits having more than one wife, not to mention two girl friends, but points out that he does not use public funds in maintaining the other women and that they lead simple lifestyles such as living in rented apartments instead of mansions or luxurious townhouses in exclusive villages.

He takes pride in being able to say that no one can point an accusing finger at him on corruption. That, we think, gives him a moral license to go after corrupt officials, as well as crime lords.

He has special distaste for the drugs syndicates that he had banished from Davao by relentless pursuit. Against the scourge he said he would ask the military to assist the police in finishing off the drugs lords — if they do not get him first.

Quoting then President Gloria Arroyo, he said the drugs problem has taken on the scale of a national security problem that has destroyed this generation. (We wonder why President Noynoy Aquino has not placed top priority to fighting this national menace.)

• Will Pope forgive him his cursing?

LIKE the other candidates, Duterte has not formally presented a program of government. But this early he has won the attention – and we dare say, the votes – of enough of his countrymen cowering in fear of criminals and holding corrupt officials in disdain.

He has not discussed in detail how he proposes to cut down corruption in government, although he has given hints drawn from his Davao experience of reforming and making easier government requirements for doing business.

Days ago he earned negative comments in social media after he recalled uttering pu**** in* – as he is wont to do almost by reflex – as he recalled his having been caught in a five-hour traffic jam during the January visit of Pope Francis.

Having seen many of videos showing him in meetings, forums and such occasions where he talked at length in his colorful language – this observer is confident the Pope himself would forgive him for that literal slip of the tongue.

As one of the numerous victims of the monstrous traffic mismanagement of the national and local governments, this motorist understands the outburst of Duterte which we presume to be actually directed not at the Pope but at the authorities.

But while this voter/victim is attracted to the daring solutions offered by Duterte to criminality and corruption, I still have not seen a presentation of how his Davao template can be replicated on the national level.

As Liberal Party standard bearer Mar Roxas promises more of the same “daang matuwid” and Vice President Jojo Binay vows to implement nationwide the good things he had done in Makati, Duterte offers Davao as his model of good management.

For a long time now, Duterte has talked of shifting from the presidential to a federal parliamentary system. The way he discusses federalism, that system seems to provide the context of his proposed solution to the unrest of the Muslim elements in his part of the country.

A federal parliamentary system might take some time for most Filipinos to understand and appreciate, but Duterte’s shooting-straight solution to the criminality and corruption problems has started to catch the imagination of voters, as surveys are showing.

Now will the Commission on Elections allow this tough-talking politician to run as substitute presidential candidate of the PDP-Laban Party despite some clerical errors in his certificate of candidacy?

Whatever action is taken on his candidacy, Duterte’s attitude appears to be “Take it or leave it.”

(First published in the Philippine STAR of December 6, 2015)

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