Damn the torpedoes, Duterte all the way!

du301

Rodrigo Roa Duterte is not the same as you and me. He is as Filipino as can be – in words and deeds, not to mention looks – while you and I are an amalgam of assorted influences that have managed to dilute our Filipino-ness. I can draw a list of traits that are, today, no longer present in the Filipino’s ordinary scheme of things. But just ask your child how much he loves his country, if at all. His answer might confound you. Patriotism? What is that? Blame globalization.

Then along comes the erstwhile Mayor of Davao City who took the country by storm and launched a massive change in mindset among Filipinos who have been laboring under the governance of those foisted by the so-called ruling class and their ilk. For far too long, we have been subjected to the dictum that only one particular group of people are entitled to rule over us, indios and sacadas – not unlike the colonial-era Filipinos subjugated for centuries by their imperial masters.

du30

No other President of the Philippines in recent memory was able to arouse love of country among the great many who seemed to have fallen in deep slumber as far as nationalistic fervor is concerned than this one has. Rightfully, the country’s colors are back to red, white and blue –the despicable yellow ribbon has overstepped its welcome and has been relegated as one of history’s insufferable moments. (Pray tell, which proud Filipino ever wore that yellow crap on their chest except the Mother’s Son and his now-negligible minions?)

I will not dwell on why a miniscule number of Filipinos hate President Duterte with unmitigated venom in their hearts. Miniscule because they consist of the elite and the elite represents only 1% of the population, counting the so-called elitists (bless their pompous souls) and the displaced politicians (sanctify their insatiable tummies) who could not accept the loss of entitlement and power. Their negativity is not good for the crinkles, so I leave them to their own self-annihilation.

The Opposition? Legitimate dissent, though smattering in number, is essential in a democracy and they are not being stifled by the man they like to call a (budding?) dictator. The nation’s second highest official is free to broadcast her disdain in front of the international community (while noticeably smiling and beaming as she spoke about killings) – perhaps to her eternal damnation. The self-described “political prisoner” can dish out post-dated handwritten statements from her detention cell imploring the public to puh-lease not forget her. And former mutineers turned mercenaries are at liberty to rant and accuse the President of every crime in the book, file an impeachment complaint, and make the rounds of jaundiced media to peddle their alternate reality.

du305

No, they are not destabilizing the government. They are only exposing their dark facades, tainted by greed and tarnished by lust. Greed for riches amassed without breaking a sweat and lust for power that they can’t let go. So, let them have their cake and eat it stale. Stupid is as stupid does, too.

Rather, I will focus on the things that endeared PRRD to the millions of average Filipinos who have finally found their voice and elected one of them to the highest post in the land. The qualities that make him stand a world away from those pretending to serve the people but all the while just helping themselves.

Of course, PRRD has flaws. Plenty of them. And he owned up to many of those flaws during the campaign. But he won, in spite of. Overwhelmingly at that. And he still enjoys high approval ratings nine months into his term despite being pictured by the “silent majority-cum-silent no more” as the devil incarnate. Try harder, peeps. The man seems to be indestructible, beloved as he is by Filipinos here and abroad. Just watch the crowds roar and scream and jostle to get near him wherever he goes. Have you ever seen anything like that before?

du304

Because he is a man with a mission, right from the get-go. A mission to take on and take out the scourge of drugs that has enveloped our country like a plague. He dares to do battle where others simply succumbed to the temptation of unimaginable wealth at the expense of the young and the poor. Yes, the poor whom critics say are the sole victims of Duterte’s war against drugs. The same critics who apparently don’t have the nerve to condemn the drug lords and “ninja cops” who made addicts and pushers out of the vulnerable poor in the first place.

If he is single-minded in his mission, it is because the man is a visionary. He envisions a country safe from the horrors of drug addiction, and succeeding generations of Filipinos emancipated from its shackles. It might go down as a quixotic quest, who knows, but he can’t be faulted for not trying. Where others before him were simply apathetic to the people’s travails and concerns (hello, BS!), Duterte walks his coarse and curse-laden talk. He doesn’t care whether he loses the presidency, even his life, he says; but he will fulfill his promises, mark his words.

He speaks the truth about us as a people – inconvenient and beyond the pale though it may be. Who was it who said that in times of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act? President Duterte is waging a revolution that will forever change the Filipino psyche. He is taking us out of slavery. Slavery to the mentality that we cannot do things on our own – that we are permanently dependent on dole outs from Big Brother even if they be scraps and tokens and leftovers.

du306

Slavery to the reality that oligarchs have been presiding over our lives with impunity – paying us wages that will never lift us out of poverty while exploiting our country’s minerals until they run barren and dry, and buying off politicians to legalize their rapaciousness. He is taking us out of the slavery to terrorism brought by differences in ideology and religion, but really just as covert means to make money in exchange for lives.

And the slavery to corruption that has systematically gnawed at every fiber of our existence as a nation it has become the norm instead of the aberration.

Decades of indifference by our leaders have made us slaves to false prophets and fake icons – and these forces of greed and lust are now furiously at work spreading falsehoods and painting a grim picture of the Philippines using foreign media and transnational organizations. With the sole motive of unseating President Duterte by all means dirty and foul in order to get back the power they lost by popular election.

They are taking their crooked movement outside the country because the Filipino people won’t listen to them anymore. Quite a jolt it must be to these pretenders. Enemies of change whose time is past. They are not freedom-loving Filipinos who will die for the Homeland, nope. Just puny slave masters whose sense of supremacy has been smashed to the ground, demolished as myth by one man. And that’s what rankles them to the marrows of their blackened bones.
du303
Advertisements

Image and statesmanship

 

statesman6

So, has the stock market crashed yet? Has the United States severed relations with the Philippines and withdrawn from the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) thus far? Have we already been treated as pariah in the community of nations? Because of the President’s vulgar, uncouth, dirty, foul, coarse language? Because the Philippines does not have a “statesman” as President?

Read the dailies these days and much of what you will see are some politicians’ and media persons’ concern over the “image” that the country is projecting to the outside world. Like, have we become one huge killing field where thousands are murdered every day on orders of the Commander-in-Chief? Or a genocide is happening and we are blissfully unaware of it?

In the first place, why do we care so much what other nationalities think of us? Do we live and breathe for the Americans who largely refer to us as their “little brown brothers”, or the Europeans many of whom do not even know we exist, or the rest of the civilized biosphere who only recognize us for the throng of skilled and domestic workers that we export to their shores?

statesman

So what if our President is not a “statesman”? Neither is he the embodiment of phony. How many phony characters have we elected as mayors, governors, congressmen, senators, presidents since elections in the Philippines became the norm by which we choose our leaders? And most of them have passed the standard of “statesman” in public comportment even as, all the while, their hands have been digging deep into the country’s coffers; but this President is an aberration because he says things that hit close to home?

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte won the election overwhelmingly on the strength of his genuineness and authenticity in contrast to the other candidates’ phoniness, to put it plainly. All they offered were images of themselves as so-called champions of the poor and vanquishers of the corrupt. On the other hand, Candidate Duterte spoke to the people eye-to-eye, in ordinary man’s terms, offering his life to flag and country – and Filipinos, in huge numbers, believed him. He only had to be himself – including the “abominable” cursing and cussing – not an image of himself, nor an image of the usual. The usual being that of the traditional politician who has been populating the Philippine political landscape for generations. Pray tell, what have those long succession of office-bearers and their respective dynasties done for the betterment of a Philippines led by “statesmen”?

statesman5

Before Duterte came along, the whole archipelago – for all of the Filipinos’ fondness for things Western and, yep, colonial – had no working national emergency number like the US’ famous 911, let alone a citizens’ hotline where they can report on and complain about things that bedevil them. Barely a month in office and 911 and 8888 were instituted – which, according to those who have tried each, are functioning and effective.

More importantly, hardly a few days into the new administration and the drug scourge was exposed for what it has been since God knows when – a huge conspiracy among rouge policemen, insatiable police generals, greedy local government officials, corrupt trial court judges and other men and women in power (“statesmen”, indeed) – all of them protecting drug lords and criminals, in the process fostering the drug trade that has been eating at the country’s youth since methamphetamine hydrochloride was invented. Shabu could be the new plague but everyone preferred to look the other way – out of fear, maybe? Or just plain indifference, which is worse.

statesman7

statesman8

In the course of fulfilling his campaign promise, President Duterte ordered a “relentless and sustained” war on drugs – a bloody one at that, as he declared it would be at the outset. Before long, loud cries of “human rights” and “extrajudicial killings” rang out in unison like the sound of an orchestra being steered by an unseen conductor, painting the grim picture of a country wilting under the control of a madman, with cherry-picked information being fed to foreign media and human rights organizations making out the country as a new Darfur, Aleppo or Kabul.

Did President Duterte ever threaten, much less issue an order, to kill law abiding citizens? Right from his inaugural speech, he said: “As a lawyer and a former prosecutor, I know the limits of the power and authority of the president. I know what is legal and what is not. My adherence to due process and the rule of law is uncompromising. You mind your work and I will mind mine.”

If that was not clear enough, in his visits at police and military camps all over the country, he kept repeating the same message: “Go after the drug addicts, pushers and dealers, the rapists, kidnappers, murderers and other criminals. Hunt them down and arrest them. But if they offer violent resistance, if you feel that your life is in danger, then shoot them.”

So, what to do with this leader whose “ugly mouth” and “boorish behavior” rankles the remnants of “civil society” who cannot seem to accept the fact that he is not one of their own, who cannot be “controlled” into bowing to them like he bows to the masses, and whose popularity baffles the mind in spite of his flaws and mistakes?

statesman4

A leader who is not afraid to own up to his shortcomings and ask for forgiveness (“I take full responsibility”, “Wala akong pride chicken,” “Fair is fair”), whose loyalty is to the flag, not to a political party (“I am willing to give up my life, my honor and the presidency”), and who does not care what “image” is attributed to his person every time he opens his mouth (“I have many mistakes and faults in life. I am not perfect. But I will not change my character”).

This is also the same leader who has the political will to include the Left in national governance for the first time in the communist rebellion’s 47-year existence, impose an indefinite unilateral ceasefire with the CPP/NPA and release political prisoners who are ranking members of the NDF to enable them to participate in the ongoing peace talks. Not to mention the similar peace talks with both MNLF and MILF. Which “statesman” has done that in recent memory?

If the media in general worries that much about the country’s image abroad, aren’t there enough accomplishments of the Duterte Administration to spread the word around, even as it has still to mark its 100th day? To improve the country’s “image”? Then again, good news does not sell. “Man bites dog” is more soundbites-worthy, while “Dog bites man” stories are panakip-butas lang. There goes the rub.

So. If push comes to shove, I’ll take the ramblings of a trash-talking septuagenarian – anytime, all the time – whose message is clear to me in spite of and/or due to constant repetitions, than the posturing of a so-called statesman who stares down at typhoon victims and tells them to their face: “Buhay ka pa naman, ‘di ba?”

statesman2

The silence of the beasts

drugs3

When was the last time that we saw hundreds – thousands in some places – of self-confessed drug addicts and pushers surrendering to authorities to have themselves counted and put on record – profiled, as it were – made to sign an oath, and ‘monitored’ for the rest of their waking days? Never.

Never before have we seen a spectacle worthy of an epic movie – of men and women, menor de edad and nakatatanda, lolo and apo, even lola, for crying out loud – trooping to basketball courts and barangay plazas; meek as lambs but admittedly in fear – courageous nevertheless for coming out in the open and identifying themselves as “adik” or “tulak”. When did they accept the reality – because addicts are mostly in a constant state of denial – that they are users of illegal substances and peddlers of death, and that they needed redemption? Only now.

drugs2

Only now are we seeing and believing that, my God, ang dami pala nila. So many of our countrymen have been living in the darkness wrought by drug addiction, some of them doing the malevolent act of luring innocents towards the same hell hole for a few hundred or thousand bucks. How, when and why have we as a nation come down to this? Where have our leaders led us to?

To a state of utter indifference. Cold and biting. The leaders we have elected in the past – from barangay halls to the corridors of Malacanang – knew but they chose the path of least resistance. Like monkeys that see no evil and hear no evil, they probably thought that by doing nothing, they are doing no evil. Which is a greater crime than greasing their palms with dirty money. Blood is dripping from their hands but they just shake it off and look the other way, unmindful of the stench pervading their protectorate.

drugs6

The Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) has reported that around 20.51 percent or 8,629 out of the 42,065 barangays nationwide have drug-related cases, with Metro Manila registering the highest incidence at 92.10 percent, followed by Region 4A (Southern Tagalog) at 38.78 percent. According to the Dangerous Drugs Board, there are an estimated 1.3 million drug users in the country. Additionally, a UN Report in 2012 showed that the Philippines has the highest abuse rate for methamphetamine hydrochloride, or shabu, in East Asia.

Were those numbers not high enough for a country’s president – yes, the President because every single buck stops at his desk – to take a good hard look, grasp the imminent enormity and fire off directions to the agencies concerned? Those startling statistics could have gone up in succeeding years as even the remotest barrios have already been invaded by this menace. In the past, people in the provinces have been complacent with the thought that drug abuse was confined only at urban centers mostly due to the wide divide in lifestyles. Only the well-to-do could afford to buy illegal drugs – cocaine, LSD, marijuana, etc. Today, both rich and poor have become narcotics users, with only the type of substance distinguishing economic classes – shabu being the poor man’s ‘means of escape’ while the rich wallow in their own ‘ecstasy’ and can easily move on to more ‘sophisticated’ harbingers of doom.

drugs4

Poverty as an excuse to get into drugs is an insult to the hardworking lot who earn their living the honorable way – like police officers themselves who house their families in modest dwellings at villages built for servicemen. The ‘haves’ get away with their debauchery because they can. Money has become the primary purpose of most everyone’s existence – the poor for subsistence, the rich for self-indulgence. And those who were sworn to serve and protect both rich and poor have taken it upon their lack of conscience to succumb to greed and avarice.

Now some sectors – those whose hearts are bleeding for criminals who, they say, are being summarily killed – are hueing and crying over alleged human rights violations, lack of due process, resorting to extrajudicial means and, shudder, shudder, turning the country into a huge killing field. They focus on the few who fell by the wayside but ignore the thousands who have turned themselves in and are given the choice to go on rehab, do community service, or apply at Tesda, among other things.

drugs5

Would those bleeding hearts rather that the so-called dregs of society proliferate their trade and extinguish the Filipino Family with the plague that is slowly gnawing at the fibers of their young? Should we just close our eyes to the heinous crimes that they commit without scruple? The rape and murder of children? The guns for hire who ride in tandem? The thieves who massacre mothers and toddlers right inside their living rooms? The mothers who maltreat their three-year-olds? The not-s0-petty felons who hold up passengers of buses and jeepneys, taxi drivers who rape and rob female passengers, mobsters who steal cars, even bicycles in broad daylight? The big crooks in government who help themselves without compunction on the people’s money?

drugs7

How many families have one pusher ruined by enticing one innocent member into their way of life? Ten, twenty, a hundred per pusher? Not to mention the drain in the already limited financial resources of these families because their addict children resort to selling property and even stealing just to keep up with their “cravings”?

Was anybody listening when President Duterte warned that it is going to be bloody? In the same breath he said that abuses if committed will not be tolerated. Better that than “business as usual”.

“Business as usual” being that Filipinos are resigned to the certainty of perpetuating the drug menace and watching families being besieged by it. There is no lesser evil here, and while killing should not be condoned, what if criminals ask for it? So sue the police for not doing their job. The Solicitor General says the presumption of regularity in the performance of duty will apply in the absence of evidence to the contrary.

drugs1

To the indignant members of civil and upright society, ask yourselves these questions: Would you feel safe to live in a neighborhood infested by drug addicts and drug pushers? Would you know what to do when faced with a drug-crazed individual intent on doing you harm?

Of course we can do better than just keeping silent until God knows when. Silence is the rule of the beasts who brought the Filipino people to this sorry state. Many of us don’t want to be silent anymore.

Panatang Makabayan

flag

A few generations ago, including mine, Filipino school children were taught love of country through the “Panatang Makabayan” (Pledge of Allegiance) that we had to recite every morning during flag raising ceremony. We knew it by heart and the words still ring loudly in my ears —

Panatang Makabayan
Iniibig ko ang Pilipinas
Ito ang aking lupang sinilangan
Ito ang tahanan ng aking lahi
Ako’y kanyang kinukupkop at tinutulungan
Upang maging malakas, maligaya at kapakipakinabang
Bilang ganti, diringgin ko ang payo ng aking mga magulang
Susundin ko ang mga tuntunin ng aking paaralan
Tutuparin ko ang mga tungkulin ng isang mamamayang makabayan at masunurin sa batas
Paglilingkuran ko ang aking bayan nang walang pag-iimbot at ng buong katapatan
Sisikapin kong maging isang tunay na Pilipino sa isip, sa salita, at sa gawa.”

But in November 2001, a new version was introduced by the Department of Education under the late Secretary Raul Roco. The existing one was revised for no other reason than to “use shorter lines in less formal Tagalog.” In so doing, not only were many words and phrases, taken out – especially the last line; it also lost its cadence and rhythm.

And we wonder why today’s young do not take patriotism seriously.

This is what they recite today:

Iniibig ko ang Pilipinas,
aking lupang sinilangan,
Tahanan ng aking lahi,
Kinukupkop ako at tinutulungan
Maging malakas, masipag at marangal
Dahil mahal ko ang Pilipinas.
Diringgin ko ang payo ng aking magulang,
Susundin ko ang tuntunin ng paaralan.
Tutuparin ko ang tungkulin ng mamamayang makabayan
Naglilingkod, nag-aaral at nagdarasal ng buong katapatan.
Iaalay ko ang aking buhay, pangarap, pag-sisikap sa bansang Pilipinas.”

The Panata as our generation knew it was a translation from the original English text:

I love the Philippines.
It is the land of my birth;
It is the home of my people.
It protects me and helps me to be strong, happy and useful.
In return, I will heed the counsel of my parents;
I will obey the rules of my school;
I will perform the duties of a patriotic, law-abiding citizen;
I will serve my country unselfishly and faithfully
I will be a true Filipino in thought, in word, and in deed.”

Guess who “reminded” Filipinos that the Philippines is “the land of my birth and the home of my people” while kissing the Philippine flag all across the country?

The ascendancy of Rodrigo Roa Duterte as the 16th President of the Philippine Republic, whose love of country is unquestionable, will hopefully inspire a resurgence of patriotism among Filipinos.

Digong kisses the Philippine flag during a "Miting de Avance" in Manila
Philippine presidential candidate and Davao city mayor Rodrigo ‘Digong’ Duterte kisses the Philippine flag during a “Miting de Avance” (last political campaign rally) before the national elections at Rizal park in Manila in the Philippines May 7, 2016. REUTERS/Romeo Ranoco

Ask not what Duterte can do for you

asknot1

Chances are, there will be no answer. Because it is not about you. Or me. Or the pet dog barking up the wrong tree.

It is not about you demanding that he should fix this or he should remove that, because either you voted for him and you want to be proven right or you didn’t vote for him and you don’t want to be proven wrong.

It is not about you ranting at the choice of people he wants to put in place, because they are “recycled”, they are not the “best and brightest”, or they are just not good enough for your (lofty) standards. Guess what, he is the President-in-waiting and you are not. He has the prerogative to appoint people whom he wants to work with, and he does not have to get your nice little approval.

asknot4

It is not about you and me just sitting there watching him do all the dirty work and yakking till Kingdom come that he is this or he is that and he shouldn’t do this or he mustn’t do that. Armchair experts are only as good as the upholstered metal where their elbows rest; in fact, they are the worst kind of ‘critics’ as they base their statements solely on their own all-knowing self-righteousness.

It is not about you scrutinizing every move he makes and every word he says and pouncing on him like he cannot do anything right even if he has yet to formally take his oath. His pronouncements today do not yet carry the weight of the office he will assume on June 30, and there you are storming the gates of Hell for him to fail before he could start the ball rolling.

For whatever it is worth, Duterte said he doesn’t care about his haters. He is here to serve the people the best way he could. And “people” includes those who did not vote for him and those who persecuted him without let up before the election – especially the media focusing only on his “despicable” mouth, not to mention the pastoral letters and homilies from moral crusaders, so called.

asknot5

Now, if you don’t want to be “included”, you are free to make good your threat to leave the country if Duterte is elected. You have the wherewithal, right? Go ahead and pack your bags and leave the Philippines to Filipinos who want to remain Filipinos regardless of who their leader is.

But if you choose not to move your butt and continue to nitpick, that is your right as well. While doing so, examine yourself and think about these:

1) Do you report your correct taxable income?

2) Do you pay your employees the right wages?

3) Do you text while you drive and do you drive when you’ve had too much to drink?

4) Do you occupy the street as parking area for your car because you don’t have a garage?

5) Do you stand at attention when the National Anthem is playing?

6) Do you keep an unlicensed firearm?

7) Do you buy an expensive designer bag even if you can barely afford it?

8) Do you take home bond paper and other supplies from the office?

9) Do you work your full eight hours a day at the office without taking ‘unauthorized’ breaks to do Facebook, Candy Crush or Solitaire on your computer?

10) Do you not open your desk drawer to make room for envelops that will ‘fast-track’ the flow of documents such as permits, licenses, etc. needing your signature?

11) Do you not bribe a traffic enforcer to get out of a routine traffic violation?

12) Do you not bribe Customs for anything that you bring into the country that has commercial value?

13) Do you not segregate your trash?

14) Do you not throw candy wrappers and cigarette butts on the street and ignore ‘no littering’ signs?

15) Do you not spit anywhere and everywhere and spread your germs and viruses on the air?

16) Do you not use a ‘fixer’ to have your car registration renewed or checked for smoke emission, and to get your passport or driver’s license processed because you don’t want to fall in line?

17) Do you not insert yourself in the middle of a long queue?

18) Do you not use the overhead walkways because you are too lazy to climb up and down and just go ahead cross the street even if there are ‘no jaywalking’ signs?

19) Do you not look down on your fellow Filipinos and condescendingly call them “dukha”?

20) Do you ever donate to charity and not let the whole world know about it?

21) Do you ever volunteer your services to help a fellow countryman in times of calamities?

22) Do you ever patronize the works of Filipino poets, authors, musicians, painters, sculptors, artists, designers, inventors?

23) Do you ever report a crime you have witnessed to the authorities?

24) Do you ever open a door for someone? Help someone cross the street? Let someone pass your car on bumper-to-bumper traffic? Stop your car behind a pedestrian lane to let pedestrians pass?

25) Do you ever listen to your parents when they tell you not to stay out late at night?

26) Do you ever give up your seat at the MRT, LRT or bus in favor of a senior citizen, a pregnant woman, and a person with disability or do you remain seated smug while listening to your earphones and ignoring the sea of humanity around you?

27) Do you ever show respect towards your parents and elders by not talking back at them even if you think you are right?

28) Do you ever show respect towards fellow motorists by not unnecessarily honking your horn, cutting lanes, tail gating, and shouting invectives at them when they do the same to you?

29) How far have you ever ventured up north and down south of your country the Philippines?

30) How far will you go to effect change on yourself before asking your leaders to change themselves?

Time to look askance – to borrow Duterte’s word – at ourselves and contemplate if we are capable of initiating change through the small things we do every single day.

asknot2

You and I are just among the hundred million tiny snapshots that make up the grand mosaic of our existence as a nation. President Duterte is there to take care of the Big Picture, hopefully, the best way he knows how.

So, if you will keep on whining and carping on how ugly his mouth is and how “evil” his deeds are without giving him the chance to do what he needs to do – better just go away and live in some land of sugar and spice and everything nice where you will be considered as second class citizens.

The Philippines under Duterte will be better off without the sound and fury of sanctimonious people whose only claim to patriotism is their insistence that Daang Matuwid is the one and only true path. Six years of that, and are we as a people any more patriotic than Rizal ever was?

asknot3

Why I am voting for the antipolitician

 

duterte11

Epal, trapo, kurakot, mandarambong. Those words are now engraved in the political consciousness and everyday lingo of Filipinos. They signify what has become, regrettably, ‘normal’ in Philippine politics and of the supposed representatives of the people. For far too long, we allowed this aberration to swallow us into apathy, such that it is now part of our culture and we didn’t even know it.

And then there is the anti-politician. The antithesis to all that is traditional in politics. Is there such an animal in this mostly impoverished land where patronage politics reigns? Where family dynasties rule as a matter of entitlement, where buying votes is not a matter of scruples but a matter of course, and spending billions in people’s money to prop up candidacies is never a matter of decency and morality?

No. That strange creature called anti-politician doesn’t exist because this country has been governed by a long line of leaders belonging to the ruling class, as it were. People who are either spawns of established political clans with interchangeable surnames or protégées of kingmakers – oligarchs, if you will, who decide which candidate will ensure the perpetuation of their wealth and the prolongation of their status as THE elite.

Comes along this probinsiyano from Mindanao, and everyone got caught dead in their tracks. His opponents, that is. Modestly attired like the typical promdi and without the typical politico’s swagger, no one paid attention to him early in the campaign, dismissing him as the joker in a deck of cards. He has no money, no machinery, no name recall – and mainstream media just outright ignored him.

duterte9

But then, he went around the country spreading a clear message and the message reverberated across audiences from one end of the spectrum to another. Before long, people were coming in droves to his rallies. On their own initiative, not the usual trucked-in “followers” garbed in uniform-colored T-shirts with packed lunch and a few hundred bucks to pay for their transportation home, accordingly.

They lined up the streets where his motorcade would pass – blocking the whole length and breadth with their warm bodies, occupying every single available space, chanting his name and raising their clenched fists up in the air for the world to see. In anger and protest, perhaps, but with a smile and a hopeful look on their faces, sometimes with a hint of tears, like being cradled in a blissful stupor.

Until his opponents found out – too late in the game, albeit – that the landslide had become an avalanche. His ratings zoomed past everyone when nobody was looking – from obscure fourth to frontrunner with double digit leads. Rodrigo Roa Duterte had already seized the bull by its horns, so to speak, and the matador is dancing his way to the Palace by the River.

So why am I voting for the anti-politician?

duterte14

Everything about Mayor Duterte is unconventional – from the simple house and rundown car, the worn out shirts and broken shoe, the uncouth mouth that would elicit laughter, ridicule, hatred or scorn; the tawdry anecdotes that got him into trouble a few times with the moralists, the doing away with the niceties and going straight for the jugular. He also offers himself as trade-in for children and women taken as hostages by terrorists, forces even foreigners caught violating Davao City’s smoking ban to chew their cigarette butts, removes the finger nails of men caught molesting women, and pretends to be a taxi driver prowling the streets at night to catch hold-up thugs or make sure that young women stranded on the streets get home safely.

He speaks to his audience not in rhetoric or bombast but in plain language – like talking to another person one-on-one, not to a crowd wary of politicians’ flowery discourse. Parang nagkukuwento lang, complete with mindless curses and muddy jokes present in ordinary conversations. In a tone that sounds like a grandfather admonishing an errant grandson or an uncle advising his niece to follow the wishes of her parents.

But the thing is – he gets things done, and he does not advertise his accomplishments the way most epal-iticos do.

duterte8

His ‘poverty’ is mere fakery? In the first place, did he say that he was poor? He only said he has no money to run an expensive campaign. And why would he fake it? Even lowly bureaucrats in many parts of the country flaunt their new-found prosperity by building houses and driving cars not commensurate to their salaries in Government. How so? Talk to the hand.

He has millions in the bank? And scores of properties under his name? Exactly the point. If he wants to hide his wealth, why would he use his name in bank accounts and real estate properties most of which are actually his children’s, who are professionals themselves? Isn’t it that the rich and famous stash their booty in offshore accounts under names similar to William Saunders and Jane Ryan?

He is friendly with insurgent and rebel groups? What’s wrong with that? The NPA, MILF, MNLF, NDF, even the BIFF and ASG, are Filipinos, too. Muslims, Christians, Buddhists, atheists, communists, even those that take up arms against the government – we are all Filipinos. If being friendly with them means there will be fewer people killed in the name of ideology or plain banditry, then better that than be at constant war against fellow Filipinos.

duterte12

He is a Communist? There goes the Red Scare. I thought it had gone down together with the disintegration of the Soviet Republics? Even China, the only remaining huge Communist state, has gone (greedy) capitalist and is now enjoying superpower status. Why would Mayor Duterte resurrect an ideology gone passé? He said he is a Socialist. Left of center. Huge difference there. Look it up in the Encyclopedia, under social equality.

He will resort to extrajudicial killings? He has repeatedly said he won’t, but unbelievers will never listen. He said he will use a special group in the military and police to hunt down crime and drug syndicates, and will not tolerate abuses from those enforcing the law. Would you like him to spell out his strategy and let the criminals know?

Criminality? If you have not had a face-to-face encounter with crime, you will not empathize. Good for you if didn’t have a brother gunned down in the dead of night by hooded men riding in tandem, whose family could not find redemption because the justice system is such that criminals have more rights than the victims.  Due process is accorded to the killer and the dead are often just interred with their bones.

duterte13

Revolutionary government? Dictatorship? Martial Law? Bogeymen created by an insecure outgoing administration in fear of its own shadow. The mayor said he will resort to a revolutionary government, IF threats of coup d’états persist and people in government will not cooperate with him in instituting reforms. Would he shut down Congress if partisan members act belligerently? Our country has enough laws, many of which are unenforced – I won’t mind not having to address a few conmen as “Honorable” for the time being.

Is he a threat to democracy? Make that, is he a threat to the elite? The World Bank and Forbes Asia say only 40 families control 75% of the country’s wealth. Is the elite afraid a Duterte presidency will drive them to penury?

And don’t give me the religion and immorality card. God hates hypocrites like you and me, including men of the cloth and women of charity. Maybe we should just look at ourselves more closely at the mirror and quit pontificating.

This is an emotional time for Filipinos. We can’t afford to be fence sitters complacent with the intangibles – believing that either change is coming or the status quo remains – while sitting smug in front of our laptops and spewing remarks that are invariably hateful, untruthful, unchristian, insufferable.

duterte10

While others are promoting hatred and division, here is one man who says “I am here for the ordinary Filipinos. In spite of my (dirty) mouth, I will give you a clean government and a peaceful society. (And) If you believe in God, you will not harm your fellowmen.” Empty words? Perhaps. But I am willing to gamble on him because ‘status quo’ is not an option.

And for whatever it is worth, he is also the only presidential wannabe who carries the Philippine flag everywhere he goes, who bows to the audience before and after he delivers his rambling speeches, and invokes his fate to the will of God and the electorate – saying do not vote for me if you do not like me. I have not seen in recent memory how Filipinos from all walks of life have turned to the flag as a symbol of hope. I guess patriotism is back in vogue.

So, yes, the master tactician beat his opponents at their own game of deceit and sleight of hand. The Filipino people must have finally found the type of leader that sparks a revolution – a revolution that comes from within and spreads throughout a nation hungry for change. A leader that is both loved and feared by the people, and hated by a few. The one who does not say ‘I am going to be’ because he is the one ‘meant to be.’

That is my truth, and you don’t have to believe it.

IMG_0548

Dear Vice President Jejomar Binay

#CandidateSeriesNo5

binay7

You were the frontrunner early in the presidential race, perhaps owing to the fact that you announced your intention very early in the ballgame as well. The ‘premature campaigning’ gave your main opponent plenty of time to do a seemingly well-financed demo job, albeit with little success if the earlier surveys were to be believed. Nevertheless, the issues against you – mostly that of corruption – have to be addressed, which you said you will do at the proper forum. You did not consider the Senate hearings as the “proper forum” as you never attended any of its long, drawn-out sessions, preferring to answer the allegations “in court”. But what about the court of public opinion that will judge you too come election time? Filipino voters – especially those who are ‘informed’ and social media savvy – have been waiting for your explanation, and the campaign should be the proper time and venue to present not only your platform but more so, your answers to the concerns plaguing your candidacy.

At any rate, following are my questions:

1) Did you enrich yourself while in office as Mayor of Makati?

You were a human rights lawyer, a member of MABINI (Movement of Attorneys for Brotherhood, Integrity and Nationalism), before President Corazon Aquino plucked you out of obscurity to serve as Officer-in-Charge of Makati City in 1986 when she removed all sitting local government officials during her “revolutionary government” and replaced them with her appointees. Since then, you and members of your immediate family have won every election either as chief executive or representative of the country’s financial capital.

binay1

You said in your earlier campaign ads that your mother died because there was no money to pay for her medical bills. Then again, you also say by way of explaining the real estate properties reflected in your Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN) that you inherited some of them from your parents. Isn’t there an obvious disconnect there somewhere? The simple-minded way of thinking being, if your parents were poor, how could you have inherited from them anything at all?

If you became wealthy by practicing law, it would have been quite understandable. So many lawyers in our country get rich by lawyering for rich clients or high-profile criminals. But since you have been mayor of Makati from the onset of your political career, you would have had to give up lawyering pro bono for the poor, which was MABINI’s advocacy. Nevertheless, your wife is a doctor. So, perhaps, the good Doctora earned more from the practice of her profession than you did as Mayor of Makati.

binay8

Then again, people generally do not believe that your wealth comes from regular toil – especially those who have heard, true or not, of the units in condominium buildings “in exchange” for approval of construction permits or something. Which, in fairness, is also ‘practiced’ by other city mayors hereabouts, according to real estate industry insiders. Was it you who started the trend?

2) Corruption is the sword that hangs over your candidacy. It is your baggage, according to one of your opponents. How are you going to overcome that and make voters choose you in spite of?

Corruption is defined by BusinessDictionary.com as wrongdoing on the part of an authority or powerful party through means that are illegitimate, immoral, or incompatible with ethical standards. It often results from patronage and is associated with bribery.

Of course the term can be applicable not only to you but a host of other ‘public servants’ as well. However, since you are the one running for President and corruption being associated with you like second skin, as it were, it is a valid issue that cannot be easily swept under the rug during an election period no matter how hard your spinners try to ignore it.

Be that as it may, the charges being leveled against you are yet to be proven in court. Still, perception is sometimes more convincing than fact and social media can be brutal. Would your ‘constituency’ – whoever they are or whatever they constitute which apparently are largely the beneficiaries of Makati City’s abundance back when you were making sister cities of every city in the country – stick with you through thick and thin?

binay9

You are confident that your “large political machinery” will carry you to victory, calling it your ground support which you say only you and Secretary Mar Roxas possess, boasting that the battle is actually between you two despite what the recent surveys and rallies show. But considering how your former allies, with their respective ground networks, have been abandoning your ship and transferring their support to another candidate – would your confidence still hold water?

The bigger question, though, is: How are you going to explain the charges of corruption and win over the undecided voters? The Commission on Audit does not come up with findings without basis or they have no business acting as examiners, inspectors or checkers of the people’s money.

3) Are you going to perpetuate the Binay name in Philippine politics?

You were against the Anti-Dynasty Bill, saying that everyone should be allowed to run for public office if they are qualified. Three of your children occupy elected positions at the same time. Two, after your son was (forcibly) removed from his seat at City Hall. Indeed, they were elected by the people but everyone knows that elections in our country often favor those who are in power.

In a recent newspaper interview, though, you said you are agreeable to enacting the Anti-Dynasty measure but “must come up with a clear definition of a dynasty.” So, what is your definition of a dynasty? How far down or across the line can members of a political family run for public office? How many of them can do so simultaneously within the bounds of decency and delicadeza?

Dynasty as defined by the Free Encyclopedia is “a sequence of rulers from the same family usually in the context of a feudal or monarchical system but sometimes also appearing in elective republics”. Obviously, we belong to the latter category – elective republic governed by a whole family occupying various positions concurrently.

binay4

Used to be that fathers passed on the ‘baton’ of public service to their sons when it was time to retire or leave – which was normal, decent and fair. Today, however, father, wife, children, siblings, ‘serve’ all at once in various instrumentalities of government either as elected or appointed officials. Is that the new normal, decent and fair?

4) With a few more days left in the campaign, how do you hope to “touch the hearts and minds of the people” considering that your ratings have gone down considerably?

One of your campaign promises which resonates well with the working class is the exemption from taxes of employees receiving below P30,000 per month. Some quarters are saying that is a preposterous claim because no less than 60 percent of taxpayers belong to that bracket. How then will you compensate for the revenues that will be lost? Or is it just one of those empty promises that politicians usually make during a campaign to entice voters?

In concrete terms, how do you plan on alleviating poverty? Having, as you say, experienced poverty first hand, what pro-poor programs are you going to implement that will make the poor say they are no longer poor? If, as you also declare, you know how they feel, how would you make them feel that Government actually exists for them, not just for the rich? And if Makati is your Exhibit A, how come half of your city is still populated by the poor in spite of you and your family having been at its helm for 30 years?

binay10

Your campaign slogan “Ginhawa sa Buhay ng Bawa’t Pilipino” (or was it “Kay Binay, Gaganda ang Buhay”?) is anchored on the premise of poverty alleviation but is not backed up by even a single narrative on how a Binay Administration would provide relief in the life of every Filipino. Is “Binay hindi bala” the counterpoint to “Tapang at Malasakit” with a specific agenda and timetable? Or is it just like “Oras na” and “Gobyernong may Puso”? Cliché, nebulous and apathetic?

5) Why do you deserve to be the 16th President of the Republic of the Philippines?

All things being equal and all basic qualifications aside, what would make those who are undecided at this point give their vote to you? Competence? Experience? Character? Are these the qualities that should matter most in making our choice for the next leader of our country? Do you have all those traits and more? Like patriotism, love and fear of God, strength of personality and conviction, leadership by example?

You are perceived as a traditional politician, part of the status quo, the usual order of things, politics as usual, a chip off the old boys’ club, same old, same old, The Establishment. Are you comfortable with that?

Wouldn’t you want to be the kind of leader that inspires change, sparks a revolution, ignites fire in the belly, institutes reforms that are inclusive not selective? Someone who is both loved and feared by the people? The one ‘Meant to be’ rather than ‘I should be’?

binay3

binay6