President Duterte is just being himself.
I must admit some ambivalence in writing about the President at this time of the traditional 100-day honeymoon period, when he is trying to forge a new government. As of late, there are still no appointments for new heads of key housing agencies, except for the appointment of VP Leni Robredo as HUDCC Chair. It makes me wonder if housing is a major interest of this Administration.
You know, it’s not easy to form a Cabinet, specially in his case of a southern-based local government official, with admittedly limited connections to the political and economic mainstream, who is suddenly catapulted to the highest position of the land. He has to make do with what he’s got. And so he needs all the help he can get. Of course, we should not at all be surprised that his first cabinet appointees are his close advisors, friends and allies. That is not the change we are talking about. First and foremost, he needs people around him that he can trust. That they are competent is also important. I look forward to the communist-endorsed secretaries. We actually had a few leftists in the cabinet during the past administrations, but the public just didn’t know it.
Now, on one hand, I can honestly say that beyond his campaign for change, he is the actual embodiment of change himself. In that sense, by electing him, change has already come.
That he not your typical President is an understatement. We basically elected an outsider, a truly home-grown “bisdak” if you will. We elected the first Davaeño, the first Mindanaoan, the first Mayor, the first socialist, and the first President in recent times that is not part of the oligarchy, the aristocracy or whatever “status-quo” we also wanted to vote against.
In short, we elected someone just like us on the assumption that he best knows what we feel, what we need, and what we aspire for. We were not looking for an eloquent statesman with a grand vision, nor a foreign-educated technocrat with a comprehensive socio-economic platform. We were looking for a simple, straight-talking, no-nonsense, down-to-earth guy who could fix things and not play too much politics. That in itself is a change that holds so much promise. At the end of the day, US Speaker Tip O’Neal was right when he said, “All politics is local.”
On the other hand, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Manage your expectations about our President. Don’t expect too much, certainly not too soon. And he will commit mistakes, for sure. Consciously lower your expectations because at the end of the day, the President will have to contend with and use a government bureaucracy that is so jaded, as big and cumbersome as a dinosaur, long on inefficiency and short on customer service; a moribund organization that is almost impossible to motivate, mobilize and reform.
Our best bet is his political will, his insistence of basic rules of discipline, his proven life of simplicity and honesty, and his willingness to go to the edge of what is legal to transform society.
I’ve always felt that the President’s success in Davao when he was still Mayor, all his rules with curfew, minors, firecrackers, including those things he is able to get away with, minimizing drugs and crime, is not because he is a dictator or a fascist or a “punisher”. He is able to do these things in Davao because his people trust him enough to let him.