POSTSCRIPT / December 22, 2016 / Thursday


Opinion Columnist

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Duterte deserves a Christmas break

HE MAY NOT admit it, but after only six months in office, President Duterte must be feeling the man-killing stress of the presidency that constantly tests his physical endurance, managerial mettle and preparation for the job.

Judging alone from his zigzagging public utterances on key issues, the 71-year-old Chief Executive looks and sounds tired, besieged. (We suggest he take a Christmas break till Jan. 20, when his supposed friend Donald Trump is sworn in as 45th US president.)

Having placed the fight against the narcotics menace at the center of his still-undefined six-year program, that top-priority problem by itself appears to be sapping his equanimity and vitality.

To preserve his balance and his wits, we think Duterte should rethink his anti-drugs drive by (1) stretching his Timeframe and (2) refining his Approach. He might want to reset his unrealistic deadline and pay more attention to respect for human life and due process.

The killing spree of his police — who target mostly suspected users and small neighborhood pushers while missing the big-time drug lords — has raised disturbing questions unduly affecting other important aspects of his administration.

One such aspect is foreign relations. He is under heavy barrage from critics overseas who see things from a different perspective and who will never understand Duterte’s actuations, let alone his rambling speeches spiced with native expletives.

Rock-star Duterte and his chorus may enjoy basking in the international limelight, but the accompanying scrutiny hardly contributes to addressing domestic concerns (jobs, livelihood, health, etc.) that have more urgency to his constituents.

On the contrary, the harsh criticisms of his bloody anti-drugs drive have raised valid questions over alleged violations of human rights and the apparent extrajudicial killings.

Wait for what Trump has to say

BEING a respected member of the international community, the Philippines cannot be deaf and blind to what the rest of the civilized world say and do. We cannot just dismiss hecklers, as Duterte does, with a “F**k you!”

The President does not respond properly to foreign criticisms by cursing his detractors or telling them to go to hell – neither by cozying up to those who tell him only what he wants to hear.

Must Duterte drop old friends in the West and seek solace in the embrace of communist China, his newfound friend? Must he gloss over the long-term motives of those who come bearing gifts?

It has been said often enough that we can make new friends without having to push away old partners whose solidarity with us has been tested in war and peace and who have contributed in no small way to the country’s development.

But then executive decisions are often colored by personal prejudices and material considerations. There is nothing we can do about that – except probably to remind the decision-maker that a good leader knows how to follow his people.

It is best for a national leader flexing his wings as he emerges from his parochial cocoon to first seek the sunlight of wider and wiser consultations, especially with those who have been around longer and deeper, before making major policy decisions.

One would be surprised at the variety, and beauty, of the world outside.

We mentioned incoming President Trump earlier. President Duterte may find it useful not to make statements or decisions on matters related to the US, a major ally, until he hears from the new manager of the Oval Office.

Unsatisfactory traffic management

NOW AND THEN, here and there, traffic in the national capital, especially on the main artery that is EDSA, lightens a bit. But generally the results of the administration’s traffic management efforts have not satisfied most road users, according to a PhilSTAR survey.

In fairness, the traffic madness in urban centers, notably in Metro Manila’s infernal EDSA, is an accumulation of the neglect, incompetence and corruption of previous administrations, worsened by the lack of discipline of drivers and pedestrians.

The road gridlock can be likened to sclerosis clogging up vehicular circulation that could cause the death of the stressed metropolis. While it festers, the problem inflicts losses of at least P3 billion a day as estimated by the National Economic and Development Authority.

As of 7 a.m. yesterday, the ongoing PhilSTAR online poll of readers’ opinion on various issues showed that seven out of every 10 respondents (71 percent) are “not satisfied” with the administration’s handling of the traffic mess.

The survey also showed that close to six out of every 10 respondents (56 percent) describe as “unforgivable” the Senate justice committee report that there is no evidence of Extrajudicial Killings and of the existence of the Davao Death Squad.

Below is a summary of the survey results on five issues:

> Are you satisfied with the administration’s efforts to address the traffic problem?

NO, 71%; Yes, 20%; Not sure, 10%. Total votes: 1,563 so far.

> Your reaction to Senate justice committee report saying there is no evidence of EJKs and of the Davao Death Squad.

UNFORGIVABLE, 56%; Understandable, 26%; I don’t care, 18%. Total votes: 2,238 so far.

> Is Duterte’s decision on Marcos’ burial at the Libingan ng mga Bayani a revision of history?

YES, 55%; No, 32%; Maybe, 14%. Total votes: 2,773 so far.

> Do you agree with the exclusion of the Commission on Higher Education chairman from Cabinet meetings?

NO, 56%; Yes, 26%; Maybe, 17%. Total votes, 2,069 so far.

> Should Facebook impose stricter filters against hateful and sexist comments?

YES, 64%; No, 17%; Maybe, 19%. Total votes: 1,943 so far.

(First published in the Philippine STAR of December 22, 2016)

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