Fr. Jerome R. Secillano, MPA
The overwhelming, high trust rating of the President seems to imply that Mr. Duterte is doing what is right for the country. Some, though, easily questioned the integrity of surveys and even downplayed their worth. But the President’s devoted supporters, particularly on social media all the more expressed firm support for him and claimed that his critics are the ones to blame for the problems besetting the country.
Well, the President has noble plans for the country. His intention to free the country from the drug problem and corruption is very admirable. I think, no one in his right mind would dare question such principled stance. Same with his intention to keep the West Philippine Sea, put an end to contractualization, increase the take home pay of soldiers and policemen, raise the Social Security System (SSS) pension, waive public school tuition fees, have our own independent foreign policies, put an end to armed rebellion, and many others. These are populist declarations, which we have already heard in the past, but his resolute political will to make these happen is what sets him apart from other leaders who came ahead of him.
But these are mere intentions, the implementation of which cannot be carried out so easily. The internal government systems and the political circumstances we have practically prevent the timely and immediate execution of what the President sees as needed by the country. No wonder, the President would occasionally quip about arrogating to himself the vast powers of the State to make decision-making a one-man act without the usual nitty-gritty of bureaucratic requirements. This also prompted Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno to say that, “the Rodrigo Duterte during the campaign is not the same as the Rodrigo Duterte now that he is president”.
It’s easy to blame Diokno for what seems to be a stupid remark, but that is the truth. All policies needed to be studied. They cannot simply be formulated and then implemented at the behest of somebody without diligently studying both its impacts and externalities. In policy-making, externalities are the unintended results or effects of a policy. They are usually objectionable effects that should not simply be overlooked.
Hence, the two-thousand-peso promise for SSS pensioners, though believed to be practically beneficial, was decreased to one thousand because the former, according to studies, will be detrimental in the long run to all SSS stakeholders. This is also true for the promised bonuses for soldiers and policemen. The Department of Budget explained that it will be hard-pressed to look for funds for the staggering amount that will be spent for our Armed and Police Forces. The fulfillment of this promise, therefore, will have to wait a little longer than expected.
The country’s ownership claim of the West Philippine Sea also hit a snag despite the favorable ruling of the arbitral tribunal in The Hague. We do not know what’s keeping the government from asserting the country’s rights to it, but what stood out during the 2016 election campaign was the brave promise of a candidate to ride a jet ski to Panatag Shoal and plant the Philippine flag on its shore.
Lastly, we heard that the candidate who eventually won in the election is now playing footsie with his Chinese counterpart while howling at his critics that it is plain stupidity to go to war with China. But nobody, I guess, even expressed the slightest hint of waging war against China as we pursue our rights over the disputed territory. So, while the Chinese are fortifying their forces in the contested islands, the President is busy picking on his critics, especially the Church, and berating some bishops over the so-called extra judicial killings (EJKs) linked to the country’s drug problem.
Realistically, the drug problem cannot be eradicated in six months as the President has promised. Mexico and Colombia, countries known as havens of drug manufacturing and trafficking, continue until today to wage war against drugs to no avail.
The rampant killings as a result of this war on drugs seem to be a losing strategy. But, I still commend the President for at least exposing to the public the gravity of the drug problem and for addressing the involvement of politicians and hoodlums both in robes and in uniforms as either protectors or members of drug syndicates. But to rebuke the Church and hurl invectives at the bishops because they criticize EJKs is not only foul but also disdainful. Worse, the President’s accusations are supported merely by unfounded allegations from a book that contained at best “ecclesiastical rumors”.
When protesting against the rampant killings happening all over the country, the Church does not claim moral superiority over others. The Church’s criticism of EJKs stems not merely from the moral standpoint but from the legal perspective as well. Since when was murder legalized?
Critics should not expect the Church to preach support for murder. To do so means to go against the explicit command of God not to kill and to violate existing legal laws which our government itself enacted.
The Church does not condone criminals and the proliferation of drugs. Criminals should be punished and illegal drugs should be eradicated. But killing with impunity is not the way to solve the problem, rather, it exacerbates the problem.
The Church, in helping the government address the drug issue, formulated community-based programs that include, among others, psycho-spiritual counseling, retreats, catechetical instructions, livelihood training, sports, and other physical activities as well as other kinds of formation not only for drug dependents but also for their families. And contrary to the allegations of critics, the Church in fact, built several drug rehabilitation facilities that can be found in Masbate, Naga City, Cebu City, and Bulacan.
The Church is not the President’s enemy. It is actually helping the government address the problem in the way it can. It is unfair to even think that the Church would not want the President to succeed. The Church supports his best intentions, but will consistently go against strategies that are illegal, unethical, and immoral.
For many Filipinos, Mr. Duterte is their best chance to make life better. For them, the President’s unorthodox approach to issues is like a breath of fresh air that forebodes a bright future for the country.
Similarly, when Glasnost and Perestroika became the foundation of reforms in the now defunct Soviet Union, the Soviets were very ecstatic and hopeful. It was for them the beginning of change and an end to the repressive communist regimes. But it was too late for them to realize that the reform movement lacked the spirit it promised prompting Alexander Yakovlev, an ally of Mikhail Gorbachev, to say, “It seems to me that there is a lot of theatricality and exaggeration in this confusion of minds, this whirlwind of events, outburst of emotions and ambitions”. Simply put, the Soviet people felt that they practically “suffered a victory” in spite of reforms anchored on “socialism with a human face”.
Lest we forget, despite the good intentions of our present leadership, killing now seems to be the “new normal”, signs of authoritarianism are already apparent, disregard for basic human rights is now evident, and unfulfilled promises are now piling-up. They’re not good indicators of a promising future but they are possibly clues that under this administration, “change SCAMMING”!
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