POSTSCRIPT / June 28, 2016 / Tuesday


Opinion Columnist

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Awaiting Rody’s metamorphosis

HOW will Rodrigo Roa Duterte appear at noon on Thursday when he metamorphoses, as promised, from a clumpy caterpillar of a mayor from Davao into the 16th President of the Philippine Republic?

At this stage, it does not really matter how Mr. Duterte may look as he unfurls his presidential wings and takes his first tentative steps into the sunshine.

Joining the multitude clamoring for a change for the better, not to mention the 16.6 million who gave him a resounding vote of confidence last May 9, we all can give the new leader the benefit of the doubt.

Even as journalists who take an adversarial position vis-à-vis the government by instinct, we in media might want to allow ourselves a 100-day so-called honeymoon with the new president.

Not that Mr. Duterte can do no wrong – he has made many missteps and misstatements — but we think that an elected official who is willing to put his life on the line to save this nation from its own foolishness deserves a chance to prove himself and his good intentions.

By voluntarily using kid gloves in sparring with the new administration in its first quarter, the media have nothing to lose but their unaccustomed naiveté. After that short lull will follow a no-holds-barred bruising game of check and balance.

Early in the election campaign we reminded voters that the nation was looking for a President, not a vigilante boss. The mayor was running mainly on a promise to end corruption and crime, especially the proliferation of illegal drugs, in six months.

But even before he could step into the shoes of his predecessor, the police sprang into action, taking the lives of scores of crime suspects, some of whom could be innocent. After assuming office, not before, we presume the new President will explain or correct the collateral damage.

Running mainly on a one-ticket (anti-crime) platform, Mr. Duterte may look like a two-dimensional executive who has length and width but no depth. Not a few have wondered how he would manage his multifarious other jobs as Chief of State and Head of Government.

As there is no such animal as a compleat president on Day One who can do everything for everyone, Mr. Duterte and his Cabinet should be given reasonable time to demonstrate their collective resolve and wisdom.

In a meeting days ago with Big Business, he said candidly that while he may have a good grounding in law, business and economics are not exactly his lines of expertise. But he gave assurance that he has a competent Cabinet cluster to attend to the business sector. He does.

If his declared intentions are any indication, Mr. Duterte will immediately take the bull by the horns and wrestle it to the ground. He certainly has his rough edges, but his may just be the hand that this unruly country needs at this point of its own metamorphosis.

The Filipino, we dare say, needs a leader who can whip him back into line. Maybe we should take the hint and fall in line voluntarily to avoid anybody getting hurt.

• Brexit a sign of creeping isolationism?

SOME Filipino friends in London are a bit anxious about the possible effects of the Brexit (Britain+Exit) referendum last Thursday whose 52-percent “Leave” vote may signal the splitting of the United Kingdom from the 28-member European Union.

We advised them to be careful (ingat) as there seems to be rising racism in the UK and continental Europe occasioned by migration issues fueled by the massive influx of migrants from countries wracked by poverty or conflict.

There is also the demographic problem of the newcomers, demanding state care and assistance from their hosts while producing children to the point that, if unchecked, could smother the native population and transform the cultural and political landscape.

If left unregulated, such mass migration may prompt some other EU nations to break away from the Union and take tighter control over their borders and resources. Brexit may inspire a trend toward a degree of isolationism as a matter of national survival.

The self-defensive extreme option of isolationism, however, is anachronistic in this increasingly interdependent world.

But while there are some 200,000 Filipinos residing or working in the UK, Brexit and its dire implications do not seem to be hot news in Manila. There is no focused official response to the developing problem maybe because the country is in transition to a new administration.

As we pointed out last Sunday, Filipino nationals holding UK passports as British citizens may experience restrictions in their movements and business activities on the continent once UK’s separation from the Union becomes final under Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty.

This might be worrying in advance. The UK is officially still with the EU despite the Brexit vote. There will be a lot of discussions yet in London, in Brussels (EU’s unofficial capital in Belgium) and in other capitals of the key member-nations.

Our friends in London tell us of a widespread feeling that Britons made a mistake voting to leave. Stoked enough, this afterthought could lead to a second referendum if that is legally and politically feasible. London itself, btw, voted 59.9 percent to stay.

The Brexit “Leave” results may also prompt some of the four UK countries, notably Scotland (which voted 62 percent to stay with the EU) to hanker for their own separation from the UK just to be free to pursue their own desire to stick with the EU.

(First published in the Philippine STAR of June 28, 2016)

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